With a full lineup finally at his beck and call, first year Longhorn boys' basketball coach Randy Wilcox is taking life a little easier these days.
Since the 1998-99 campaign tipped off Nov. 20 in a scrimmage against Joseph City, the Horn coach has been handcuffed with a limited number of players. The PHS roster was so depleted, Wilcox was forced to use several jayvees as varsity starters.
The reason for the low numbers could be attributed to the highly successful football campaign.
Four returning letter winners from last year's hoop team who were being counted on to form the nucleus of the 1998-99 team were members of the Horn gridiron squad that played until Nov. 28 and won the Class 3A state championship.
Those players missed all the preseason practices and games against Round Valley, Camp Verde, Cactus Shadows and the Ames Ford Shoot-Out Tournament in Winslow.
Without the veterans, the Horns struggled to a 2-5 record.
In early December, footballers Marc Bennett, Ryan Lorentz and Jeremy Hoff joined the team. One week later, starting point guard Hunter Walden -- an All-Central First Team performer last season -- hooked up with the squad.
The lineup is now complete and the Horns are participating in the Pepsi Cola Invitational Tournament in Flagstaff at full strength.
The team opened play in the 16-team fray at 4 p.m. yesterday (Thursday) against the Kingman Bulldogs. (Results not available at press time). Dates and times of future tournament games will depend on the outcome of the Kingman encounter.
The squad is scheduled to stay in Flagstaff tonight and wrap up action in the double-elimination shoot-out Saturday.
Once the team returns to Payson, it will take a brief respite from games for the Christmas holidays. Action resumes Jan. 2 in Monument Valley.
In all-important Central Division play, which is used to determine which teams advance to the state tournament in February, the Horns currently stand 1-1 after a loss to Cactus Shadows Dec. 8 and an 88-26 lambasting of the Miami Vandals Tuesday evening in Wilson dome.
With Walden leading the way offensively, the Horns outscored the Vandals 19-4 in the early going, then coasted to one of the most lopsided wins ever witnessed in the dome.
Walden finished with a game-high 26 points, 22 of them in the first half.
Wilcox pulled out all the stops in attempts to keep the score down, but no matter what the slow-down strategy, the Horns scored at will. In addition to Walden's offense, the Horns received 17 points from Jeremy Hoff and 14 from Jeremy Reynolds. Josh McRae contributed 10, Chad Deschaff six and Marc Bennett four.
Against the Lobos
The first game the Horns were at full strength was a 68-60 loss to the Snowflake Lobos Dec. 11 in the Wilson dome.
While it was a loss, the encounter was a marked improvement over the 74-52 shellacking the Horns took on the hooves in the Ames Ford Shoot-Out.
Payson was never in contention in the Winslow tournament but in the second encounter, the Horns were in a position to upset Snowflake trailing only 52-51 early in the fourth quarter.
However, several crucial turnovers in the final minutes allowed the Lobos to escape home to Snowflake with their second triumph over the Horns.
Walden, Hoff and Lobo Bo Baker tied for game-scoring honors with 18 points each.
For Payson, McRae finished with 10 points, Lorentz with 6 and Reynolds with 4.
Deschaff and Bennett contributed two each.