By Rick Atkinson
For the Anna-Melissa Tribune
CELINA – After handing Aubrey its first district loss of the season on Jan. 21, Anna’s Lady Coyotes came up short Jan. 24, falling at Celina 48-34.
For Anna, too many turnovers against a feisty Lady Cats zone defense combined with a tough shooting night spelled the difference this night, especially in the first half. Celina held a 21-9 halftime lead and that was plenty cushion to withstand the near draw the teams battled to after the break.
The result tightened up the district race at its midpoint as Celina moved to 2-3 in a near must-win game for them and the Lady Coyotes dropped to 3-2.
Anna forward Qua Fisher recorded a team-high nine points while guard Marianna Bert tallied eight points and grabbed three steals. Forwards Bre Traylor and Lexi Stewart led the Lady Coyotes with seven rebounds each.
For Celina, Caroline Morgan poured in 19 points while Kya Gastineau collected 15.
“Anytime you turn the ball over like that,” Anna head coach Justin Baldia said, “you don’t put yourself in a position to be successful. We lacked a little bit of that aggression, an attacking mentality. We were a little passive. They set up in a zone so we kind of relaxed a little on the offensive side and we were a little loose with the ball.
“I think we saw a lot of difference in the second half. We started attacking the basket a little more, getting to the free throw line. But we’ve got to make free throws. … If we knock down free throws at a better percentage we put ourselves right back in that game. It just didn’t happen.
The Lady Coyotes shot 24-percent (10-of-41) from the field and 42-percent (11-of-26) from the free-throw line.
“It was just a tough shooting night all around,” Baldia said, “from the free-throw line and beyond the [thre-point] arc. Even in the lane, some shots that normally go for us just weren’t going tonight.” He added, “You can’t draw up heart or desire or hustle or want to. That’s something that we’ve got to bring every night. We did it in the second half but not in the first half.”
“I was really proud of our kids,” Celina head coach Kristen Cole said. “This was a huge game for us. It was a pivotal point for us in the season. I feel like our kids really executed the defensive game plan and they played their tails off, defensively. I feel like that created some offense.
“Even though we play zone, a majority of the game it’s a very active match-up zone - getting to shooters, not giving them any easy open looks and also closing down the lane and not letting them get inside.”
While the Lady Coyotes are much better off than last season’s 1-4 mark at this point in district play, Baldia and the team certainly aren’t satisfied. “You want to go 1-0 every single night,” he said, “and you can’t look beyond your next opponent. We would’ve like to have finished the first half 4-1 and put ourselves in a good position. [Being] 3-2 makes things are a little bit trickier.”
In Anna’s impressive 36-32 win at home over Aubrey, Fisher pumped in a team-high 12 points and Bert posted 11. Bert was also good on four-of-five free throw attempts and logged a team-high three assists. Fisher led Anna on the boards as well, collecting eight rebounds while Stewart grabbed five. The Lady Coyotes started fast, leading 22-12 by halftime, then held off Aubrey’s strong second-half charge.
Anna 5 4 16 9 - 34
Celina 10 11 18 9 - 48
Anna scoring – Qua Fisher, nine; Marianna Bert, eight; Kaycee Redwine, seven; Bre Traylor, six; Lexi Stewart, two; Kylie Agerlid, two.
Aubrey 3 9 6 14 - 32
Anna 10 12 4 10 - 36
Anna scoring – Qua Fisher 12, Marianna Bert 11, Kaycee Redwine 8, Bre Traylor 4, Lexi Stewart 1.