Averaging more than 20 points per game and dominating on both the offensive and defensive boards, junior center Rheanna Martinez paced the Lady Longhorns to a 2-2 record in the River Valley Invitational Tournament held last weekend near Needles, Calif.
Her individual efforts were rewarded at frays' end when coaches voted her a member of the prestigious all-tournament team.
Martinez's best offensive performance came in a tournament-opening 66-33 victory over California's Palo Verde High School when she lit up the scoreboard for a game-high 23 points.
In a second round 49-38 triumph over Needles, Martinez again led all scorers with 19.
Her onslaught continued with 19 and 20 points in losses to Snowflake, 75-50 and Bradshaw Mountain, 70-64.
Martinez's dominating performance left little doubt she'll be a force to reckon with when East division play begins Saturday in Whiteriver. But for the squad to succeed throughout the rigorous regular season campaign, the Lady Horns must also muster the intangibles that are often the difference between winning and losing.
"We need more senior leadership," Daniels said. "We played good, spirited ball (in the tournament), but didn't have the experience to carry us to victory."
The youthful Horns feature a lineup filled with underclassmen including sophomores Lee Ann Owens, Brandi Waugh, Jennifer Plumb and MacKenzie Herrera. Also on the roster are freshmen Ashli Herrera and Trista Carlton.
If the youngsters mature quickly on the court, the team will be in much better shape to make a run at the East crown, Daniels predicts.
In the opening round win over Palo Verde, the Lady Horns unleashed a fast-break offense and pressure defense that propelled them to an early 12-1 lead. Seldom looking back, Payson led 27-11 and 49-21 before settling for the 33-point triumph.
In addition to the scoring of Martinez, the Horns thrived on 12 points from Waugh and six each from Carlton and Plumb.
In second-round action, the Horns were called upon to deal with Needles' tall, talented and acclaimed front line that featured coach Michael Richards' two daughters. One of the girls, Constance, lit up the scoreboard for 18 points, but it wasn't enough offense to overcome the scoring antics of Martinez, Kaitlan Wilkins (10), Waugh (7), Hererra (5) and Carlton (5).
The win, Daniels said, was considered an upset in California prep circles where Needles is highly regarded.
With a 2-0 record the Lady Horns steamed into the tournament's third-round play eyeing a berth in the championship. However, Lady Horn dreams were quickly doused when Snowflake and their twin superstars Cari Adams and Becky Elkins sent them packing into the loser's bracket. With 26 points each, Adams and Elkins scored big enough to out-point the entire Lady Longhorn team.
In the loser's bracket, the loss to Bradshaw -- a 4A school near Prescott -- eliminated Payson from further play.
After building a 38-33 halftime lead against the Bears, the Lady Horns struggled offensively in the second half, scoring only 20 points. The bright spot in the loss was the scoring of Wilkins who finished with a personal high 21 points.
While the Horns didn't return from the RV tournament with a winning record, the team members did receive an invaluable tune-up for future tournaments.
The next -- the Payson Holiday Invitational --will be played Dec. 20 and 21 in Wilson dome. Start times have yet to be determined.