To be successful in the first round of the Central Division tournament -- 7 p.m. today (Tuesday) in Wilson Dome against Globe -- the Longhorn boys' basketball team must come up with a much more inspired effort than it turned in Friday in Coolidge.
In a 84-47 regular-season-ending loss to the defending state champion Bears, the Horns fell behind in the first few minutes and were never a factor.
Tonight, the Horns' backs are smack dab against the wall. The team must salvage a win or the season is at an end and players can turn their sights on baseball, track, girlfriends, pick-up trucks or spring sunshine -- whatever tickles their teenage fantasy.
A win over Globe, however, would keep the Horns alive and kickin' in the tournament's second round Feb. 12 at Arizona Boys Ranch.
To be eligible to play in the "Big Show" -- the state tournament -- the Longhorns need two Central Division tournament wins which would send them as a third seed.
The state tournament begins Feb. 16 in Flagstaff.
In a touch of irony, the Horns' demise, from being one of Central's elite teams, was never more evident than in an 87-84 loss to the homestanding Globe Tigers Jan. 26.
The loss -- against the very same team the Horns will open against in the Central tournament today -- was the Rim crew's third heart-wrenching defeat in the course of only seven days.
The Horns' demise began Jan. 19 with an 88-86 overtime loss to Coolidge and continued four days later with a 57-56 loss to Cactus Shadows.
In all three games, PHS coach Wilcox said, the Longhorns were in a position to win and allow themselves a better seed into the divisional tournament.
They enter today's opening round as the fourth-seeded team against the fifth-place Tigers.
In the loss to Globe, the Horns were playing without the services of starting point guard Hunter Walden who earlier injured a knee and could be lost for the season.
Wilcox said he is not optimistic that Walden, the team's leading scorer and an all-division performer last year, will return in time for any postseason play for which the team might qualify. Without Walden, Jeremy Hoff took up the scoring slack recording a team- and season-high 32 points.
Hoff's shooting hand wasn't particularly hot in the first half when he scored only nine points and the Horns trailed 48-41.
The shooting touch in the half belonged to Jeremy Reynolds and Josh McRae. Reynolds cashed in on four three-pointers and McRae was the team's leading scorer with 16 points.
However, Hoff heated up in the third quarter with six points and three of three free-throw shooting.
The final quarter turned out to be a Hoff free-throw exhibition as the senior made good on eight of 12 charity tosses awarded him. He finished 11 of 15 from the line, hit one three-point bomb and had nine field goals.
McRae tallied 27 points and Reynolds 20. The three, however, were about the only Payson players to be involved in the offense. Ryan Lorentz's (three points) and Chad Deschaff (two) were the only others to score.
For the Horns to threaten Globe this evening, other players in the line-up will need to step to the scoring attack.
Conversely, the well-rounded Globe attack usually features four players in double figures and 10 of the 12 players on the roster scoring.
In the last outing between the two teams, Tiger Doug Mesman proved to be a thorn in Payson's side with 21 points.