After winning a third straight Lockett/Joyce Memorial Scholarship Tournament championship last week, the Payson Hotshots 12-years-and-under girls' basketball team is looking again to Flagstaff as a city of golden opportunity.
Coaches and team members say they are hoping their good fortune in the city continues when the hardwooders return to the northland in two weeks to participate in the Thunder in the Pines basketball tournament. Flagstaff was the site of the Lockett/Joyce tournament.
"The town has been good to us -- we'd like to keep winning there," said Hotshots coach Grant Kepp.
At the Lockett/Joyce shootout, played at Coconino High School and the Flagstaff Recreation Center, the Hotshots opened on a lackluster note, losing to the homestanding Flagstaff Swish, 21-18.
The team rebounded to win three straight games in the losers' bracket and earned a repeat meeting against the Swish -- this time around in the championship game.
The contest turned out to be a nip-and-tuck barn-burner.
"It was very close throughout -- neither team led by more than three points," Kepp said.
With about a minute remaining, the stifling Hotshot defense converted several Swish turnovers into easy buckets, enabling the Payson team to rally for a 27-22 victory and the tourney crown.
"The girls put on some terrific defense. That was the difference," Kepp said.
With the Thunder tournament on the horizon, the Hotshots --which is comprised of nine seventh-grade students and one sixth-grader -- continue to practice on a regular basis, as they did during the months leading up to the Lockett/Joyce fray.
"They practiced hard and played together all summer. They have a lot of dedication," Kepp said.
The Hotshots has its origins in parks and recreation youth league play last spring. At the conclusion of the season, a traveling tournament team was formed.
"The team is kind of an all-star group from what played in that league," Kepp said.
In addition to the Thunder tournament, Kepps hopes to enter the Hotshots in an AAU league also in Flagstaff.
Team members include Morgan O'Haver, Danny O'Haver, Kody Kepp, Brittney Owens, Rikki Ray, Brittney Hilleages, Tonya Davis, Tina Jackson, Hailee Byler and Talasse Pettet.