Girls' Fate Hinges On Final Two Games

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Don't ask coach Jerry Daniels to predict his Lady Longhorn basketball squad's future -- it's an impossible task.

With less than one week remaining in the regular season and two games to be played, the Horn coach still doesn't know where his team -- now 6-4 in the Central -- will be seeded into the division tournament to begin Feb. 10.

That seed will play a huge role in determining whether the Horns reach the Class 3A state tournament.

"It's the end (of the season) and we've played a lot of games, but it all comes down to this (final week)," Daniels said.

After dropping a 66-46 decision to Fountain Hills Friday evening in the Wilson Dome, the Lady Horns find themselves in a dogfight for third place with Globe and Miami.

Hanging onto third place is crucial for the PHS team. As bronze medalists, the Horns would open the divisional tournament in the Wilson Dome against the Central's sixth-place finisher, which will probably be Santa Cruz. The Horns beat Santa Cruz 66-54 Jan. 8 in the Wilson Dome.

A victory in the Central opening round would also accomplish the Horns' season-long goal of earning a berth in the state tournament, to begin Feb. 16 in Flagstaff.

However, if the Lady Horns lose their two remaining games this week -- today (Tuesday) at Santa Cruz and Friday in the Wilson Dome against Coolidge -- the PHS squad would fall to fourth in the standings and would then host the Central's fifth-place finisher in the opening round of the Central tournament.

A battle against the fifth place finisher -- which could be Globe or Miami -- might be a much tougher contest than one against Santa Cruz.

Further compounding the situation is the fact that if the Horns are defeated in the first round of the Central fray, they would automatically be eliminated from going to state.

Sound a tad complicated?
It is.
But to the team's advantage, it controls its own destiny and can put itself in a more advantageous position to earn a state tournament berth with victories this week.

Whip Globe, lose to Fountain Hills

If the Horns are to be successful in this week's showdowns, the team will have to return to the form it showed in a 64-40 win over Globe Jan. 26 in the Wilson Dome.

Daniels labeled the game "one of our best efforts of the season."

After watching his team jump-start itself to a 26-6 early lead, Daniels said, "The girls came out mentally prepared and buried Globe -- it was a total team effort, with great teamwork and ball movement."

With Stephanie Robertson blazing away for 20 points, freshman Brandi Waugh heating up the nets for 15 and Sidney Swartwood tickling the nylon for 10 more, the Lady Horns offense was cranking on all cylinders.

The offensive effort was good, Daniels said, but the real reason for the victory might have lain elsewhere.

"What really shined was the effort we had on the defensive end of the court," he said. "We took Globe's (rebounding) strength away and totally controlled the boards."

The Horns' effort against Globe was in sharp contrast to the one the team turned in Friday evening during the 20-point loss to Fountain Hills.

The Horns -- who were missing several players due to the flu -- struggled in the second half, looking for the firepower it had shown only days earlier.

Fountain Hills built an early 13-7 lead, but the pesky Horns refused to go quietly and trailed only 30-25 at the start of the third quarter.

The Falcons went on a 17-9 third-stanza run, leaving the Lady Horns to trail 47-34 early in the fourth quarter. The Horns never mustered the offense needed for a stretch run.

Robertson took scoring honors with 15 points, Swartwood finished with 12, Waugh had 11 and Kaitlin Wilkins eight.

The schedule
If the Lady Horns finish in the top four slots of the Central regular season standings and go on to win a first round tournament game Feb. 10 in the Wilson Dome, the team would advance to Central quarterfinals to be played Feb. 12 and 13 at Arizona Boys Ranch in Queen Creek.

After state tournament opening-round and quarterfinal games Feb. 16 and 17 at Northern Arizona University, the state semifinals and championship moves to the Phoenix Suns' home at America West Arena Feb. 26 and 28.

Last season, the Lady Horns were eliminated by Snowflake in Flagstaff, one game shy of playing at America West.

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