CARROLLTON – Lincoln’s high-flying Tigers got out fast on Feb. 25 in their Class 4A Region II bi-district battle with Anna at Creekview High School. With loads of length and speed, Lincoln – the second seed out of stacked District 12-4A – led, 21-3, after a quarter and, 41-13, at halftime before claiming a 62-36 win.
Anna (17-16) kept fighting throughout - supported by loud Coyote fans - and bounced back to post a 23-21 edge after halftime, but the Tigers’ early barrage was enough to see them through. Guard Brandon Cotton led Lincoln (19-16) with a game-high 14 points while 6-6 Micah Clark and 6-7 Quinntez Grimes ruled inside, chipping in 12 and 7 points, respectively, as well. The Tigers didn’t hit a 3 in the contest.
Forward Jackson Vandagriff and guard Josiah Mackey logged a team-high 8 points each for Anna, with forward Kadrian Evans, guard Jayden Rodgers and Mackey each hitting a 3 for the Coyotes.
“It’s tough,” fourth-year Anna head coach Kyle Phifer said of facing a team like the Tigers. “They guard the ball really well. Defensively, they get after you. They’ve got a 6-7 inside. They can protect the rim. Their length gave us a lot of issues. It’s not something we’re used to.”
Lincoln head coach Cedric Patterson credited his team’s athleticism. “We get out in transition and play. We still need to improve on the defensive side of the ball. With us being so young, we take breaks on the defensive end. I would like us to correct those things.”
Asked what it’s like competing in District 12-4A with Carter, Wilmer-Hutchins and Pinkston, Patterson laughed, “We call it ‘The Gauntlet.’ That district right there, you’ve got to come and play. … It’s a good chance for us. It helps us grow as a young team.”
The Coyotes showed spark with a 6-0 run to open the second half, including a pair of Vandagriff layups and Mackey’s jumper from the lane. Lincoln’s ensuing 8-2 burst set the quarter even at 12-12 and the lead unchanged at 28.
In the fourth, Anna chipped the margin down to 21, at 55-34, on Evans’ right-corner trey, a baseline jumper from Rodgers and Vandagriff’s layup off a Mackey steal. The Tigers then rolled to the finish with a 7-2 run.
For four Anna seniors - Rodgers, Vandagriff, Bullet Geer and Jaedin Victorian - this contest marked their final appearance on the hardwood as Coyotes. They had played on varsity together since their sophomore years, coming in after Anna graduated seven seniors from the program’s first outright district title team in 2017.
“We really started over when they were all varsity sophomores,” Phifer said. “They’ve taken a step each year. And, like I told the juniors and sophomores, they showed us how to get here. They showed us what it takes as far as leadership. It’s the juniors’ and sophomores’ job to continue that tradition.”
Phifer added that he’s been impressed with this team’s resiliency. “There’s more than once or twice this season they could’ve turned it in. To show and finish the way they did, it just means the world to our program.”
“It was fun,” Rodgers said of his final Anna season. “It was a lot of learning experiences. My coach gave me many chances to become the man I am today. He taught me so much. I feel like I’m going to be a better man in life because of what he showed me.”
The Coyotes ended this year’s campaign strong, winning six of their last eight games before meeting Lincoln as the third seed from District 11-4A. “It was that mind-set we had,” Rodgers said. “We got told we were going to be projected sixth [in district] and we were like, ‘We’ve got to turn it around.’ … We practiced hard every day and we punked everybody.”
Said Geer, “As sophomores, we were basically like a JV team. The seniors, we stayed with it. We just kept coming in every morning, even after we were getting beat a lot sophomore year. We just kept coming out - to come play in a game like this.”
As for leaving the court for the last time as a Coyote, Victorian said, “Four years of experiences, hard work, waking up early in the morning, staying up late - it all hits you at once. It’s the last one. You’ve just kind of got to live with it.”
Vandagriff added, “It’s crazy how fast it’s gone by. It’s crazy how far we’ve come. I’m just happy for all us. It’s a new chapter. … We’ve been ‘hooping’ together since we were in elementary school, so we’ve all been really close. We’re all four best friends. We’ve always had that chemistry together.”
Regarding Lincoln, Vandagriff said, “They’ve been here before. They knew what to expect. Obviously, this was our first time as a group, coming here. It was just something we needed to experience … for our next group to come up and continue it.”
Anna 3 10 12 11 - 36
Lincoln 21 20 12 9 - 62
Anna scoring – Jackson Vandagriff 8, Josiah Mackey 8, Jayden Rodgers 5, Jaiden Campbell 4, Zay Gentry 4, Kadrian Evans 3, Jaedin Victorian 2, Bullet Geer 2.