By Rick Atkinson
For the Anna-Melissa Tribune
CELINA – In their third meeting of the season Feb. 21 at Celina, Anna and Aubrey had some business to settle. Who would be the district’s third playoff seed after they had tied for third place with identical 5-5 district marks? The answer began to show itself early on as the Coyotes punched out a 13-2 run after Aubrey drained a 3 on the game’s first shot.
Anna still led, 24-19, at halftime, buoyed by two first-half 3s from guard Josiah Mackey and single treys from forward Jackson Vandagriff and guard Jaiden Campbell. The Coyotes only got stronger in the second half, pushing on for a decisive 57-44 win.
Mackey finished with 17 points and four 3s - both game-highs - while the Chaps’ Jayden Hollis posted a team-high 16 points.
With the victory, Anna (17-15) will face Dallas Lincoln (16-15) in the Class 4A Region II bi-district playoffs at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 25, at Carrollton Creekview High School. The Coyotes appear to be peaking at just the right time, having won six of their last games.
Aubrey had gotten by the Coyotes, 51-49, in the teams’ first meeting, Jan. 21, at Anna. The Coyotes returned the favor with a 65-57 win at Aubrey on Feb. 7.
“We really didn’t change it a lot,” Anna head coach Kyle Phifer said by phone Saturday of this latest showdown with the Chaps. “We anticipated a little more zone [defense]. We felt with them playing man[-to-man] the last couple of times, we’ve done a good job of attacking it. … We knew they were going to go zone so we really tried to focus on that.
“In the second quarter they kind of slowed us down. I don’t know if it was a rhythm thing or what. I thought we were getting good shots. We just weren’t hitting them like we were in the first quarter. I thought in the second half we did a really good job of attacking [the zone]. We got a ton of easy buckets off of it.”
Phifer noted that this group of senior Coyotes – Vandagriff, guard Bullet Geer, guard Jayden Rodgers and forward Jaedin Victorian - has been through a lot since joining the varsity squad as sophomores.
“Last year we battled and fought through some things and just couldn’t get into the playoffs. Then this year, we hit some very low points. But the kids have continued to battle and they’re playing really well at the right time. Last night might have been the best game we’ve played all year - a complete game. I could not be more proud of them.”
With Anna’s 61-45 district-finale win over Gainesville, Feb. 18, the already playoff-bound Coyotes pulled into that third-place tie with Aubrey. Campbell posted a team-high 16 points for Anna while Gentry knocked down 15. Mackey fired for 13 points and sank a team-best four 3-pointers. Campbell and Gentry hit three treys each as the Coyotes erupted for 14 3s altogether. Anna led, 22-14, at halftime and, 37-25, after three quarters. Noah Ridge led the Leopards (1-9) with 13 points. ___________________________________________________________________
Aubrey 10 9 11 13 - 44
Anna 15 9 17 16 - 57
Anna scoring – Josiah Mackey 17, Zay Gentry 9, Jackson Vandagriff 9, Jaiden Campbell 7, Jaden Adams 6, Jayden Rodgers 5, Kadrian Evans 4.
Gainesville 6 8 11 20 - 45
Anna 9 13 15 24 - 61
Anna scoring – Jaiden Campbell 16, Zay Gentry 15, Josiah Mackey 13, Jackson Vandagriff 7, Bullet Geer 3, Jayden Rodgers 3, Jaedin Victorian 2, Kadrian Evans 2.
FINAL BOYS BASKETBALL STANDINGS
District 11-4A (as of Feb. 24)