Horns Look To Postseason Honors


Fans, players, teachers and coaches are wondering: Did any of the Longhorn basketball players perform well enough during the team's up-and-down season to earn All-Central Division honors?

That team -- to be selected in a postseason voting of coaches -- will be announced by Horn coach Randy Wilcox at the squad's traditional year-end awards assembly. The date and location for the event will be announced early next week, Wilcox said.

The Horns have several strong candidates for the All-Central team-- Jeremy Hoff, Hunter Walden, Josh McRae, Jeremy Reynolds and possibly others.

But the competition for the 10 all-star berths is fierce in the Central Division where defending state champion Coolidge is housed.

The Bears' strongest candidates for postseason honors could be Michael Smith, Randy Youtsey and highly talented Terrance Gant.

Rim country fans who witnessed the Bears humble Payson 84-47 Feb. 5 in Coolidge, will probably never forget Youtsey and his red-hot, fourth-quarter scoring antics. In filling up the nylon with six three-point bombs from several different spots behind the 19-foot, 9-inch arch, Youtsey put on a shooting clinic that would rival any of Larry Bird's outbursts.

In Smith, Wilcox said, Coolidge has a strong candidate for Central Player of the Year honors.

Coolidge has the athletes to contend for honors but don't count out talented others in the division.

Cactus Shadows' Dirk Walker -- known to Horn football fans as the Falcons' stud running back last season -- was a scoring machine all season. Teammate Wes Carlock -- a Falcon captain -- was equally as adept around the basketball.

Some of the others who could contend for Central honors include Doug Mesman (Globe), Ricky Aragon (Globe), Jon Kavanaugh (Fountain Hills), Chris Burkhart (Arizona Boys Ranch), Ramon Ruiz (Santa Cruz), Patrick Thomas (Santa Cruz) and Mike Garcia (Miami).

Payson candidates
For Walden to be selected to his second successive All-Central team, coaches must evaluate him on a few brief appearances.

The senior point guard missed three early regular-season games and the Winslow tournament. Wilcox gave him the brief respite to recover from the rigors of a 12-game football season that culminated with the Class 3A state championship.

Then, in mid-December, Walden didn't participate in the Pepsi-Cola Invitational Tournament held in Flagstaff, due to an injury.

Walden returned to the Horn line-up for eight regular-season games, but was sidelined for the campaign with a torn ACL knee ligament suffered in late January during a 57-56 loss to Cactus Shadows.

When he was in the line-up, Walden was a force to reckon with. In his first game of the season, Dec. 11, in a 68-60 loss to Snowflake, he paced the Horns with 18 points.

Only three days later in a win over Miami he contributed 26.

The highlight of the Horns' season was probably an 82-79 win over Fountain Hills Jan. 8. In the win, Walden scored a season-high 28 points.

Four days later in an 82-30 romp over Arizona Boys Ranch, he scored another 28 points

In the 1 3/4 quarters he played against Cactus before injuring his knee, he scored 14 points.

In addition to his scoring, Walden was a valuable play-maker and defender. Two of his marks tied school records including most assists (12) and steals (10) in a single game.

The assists tie Walden with 1992 star Byron Quinlan. Mark Hochstetler had 10 steals in 1988.

If Walden had played an entire season, there's little doubt he'd be an All-Central selection. But with his limited time on the court, he could be passed over.

By rule, coaches can't vote for their own players in the all-division selection process, but Wilcox said he thinks Walden is deserving of the honor.

"A lot of the wins we had were when he was playing," Wilcox said.

One of the rock-solids in the Payson line-up was Jeremy Hoff.

Because he also was a member of the Horn football team, Hoff missed two early-season games while PHS was playing its way to the state title.

He jumped directly into the starting lineup only days after the gridiron season ended. In a 80-78 loss to Chino Valley in the opening round of the Ames Ford Shoot Out in Winslow Dec. 4, he began rounding in basketball playing shape by scoring 19 points.

Later in the tournament -- in a 74-52 loss to Snowflake -- he led the team offensively with 20.

Following a bit of fine-tuning of his hoop skills during Christmas holiday break, Hoff scored 23 points against Globe and days later 21 in a Horn victory over Santa Cruz.

But those outbursts were only a taste of what was to come.

In Wilson Dome Jan. 14 -- in a 88-86 overtime loss to Coolidge that sent the once-promising Longhorn season spiraling downward -- Hoff lit up the scoreboard for 30 points.

About one week later in an 87-84 loss to Globe, Hoff was again a scoring machine with 32 points -- 23 of them in the second half.

Having not been a member of the football team, McRae was in a Horn uniform from the opening tip-off, scoring 13 points in a 52-48 loss to Round Valley.

His team-high 16 points were about the only Payson highlight throughout a 80-47 loss to Sinagua at the Pepsi Cola fray.

When Hoff was scoring his 32 points against Globe, McRae was contributing his season-high of 27. Days later, in a loss to Fountain Hills, he equaled the mark with another 27.

Late in the campaign, he turned in games of 21 and 20 points.

When Wilcox went looking for a hired gun on his roster, he turned to Reynolds, the team's three-point specialist.

Able to shoot long-range bombs with the best of the Central Division, Reynolds wasted little time proving himself.

Opening night he chalked up a trio of treys and finished with 13 points. In the opener of the Ames Ford tournament, he cashed in on six three-pointers and finished with 24 points.

In an 88-73 loss to Cactus Shadows in early December, he tallied 27 points, hitting four super shots.

After suffering an injury in the Pepsi Cola Tournament, he did not play in the final two games but returned in a 85-66 loss to Monument Valley. His 16 points -- including two treys -- were second on the team to Walden's 18 points.

Reynolds finished with 19 in the overtime loss to Coolidge but hit only one three-pointer.

In a loss to Globe days later, he cashed in to five treys, three of them in the first quarter. He finished with 20 points, to go along with Hoff's 32 and McRae's 27.

More honors
As seniors, all the Payson players are eligible to participate in the Arizona Coaches' Association North vs. South All-Star game when it is played this summer on the campus of Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher.

State coaches will meet Feb. 21 at the conclusion of the state tournament to select players for the all-star teams.

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