The Lady Longhorn basketball team will be fighting for its playoff life when it travels to Southern Arizona this evening, Tuesday, for a 7 p.m. Central Division clash against the homestanding Coolidge Bears.
After a slow start, the Lady Horns are wallowing through mediocrity with a 3-2 record that ties them for third place with both Globe and Miami.
Coach Jerry Daniels has challenged the team members to step up and regain the prominence the team boasted of last year when the Horns won the Central championship.
Whether the team responds to the coach's challenge will be learned this evening against the 4-1 Bears who are all alone in second place behind undefeated (5-0) league leader Fountain Hills.
A victory would pull the Lady Horns into a tie for second place with six Central games remaining before the first round of the playoffs tip off Feb. 10.
While a victory tonight is not crucial to Horn hopes, a loss would push the team even deeper into the hole it dug for itself with a 66-54 loss to Fountain Hills in Wilson Dome Jan. 8.
The key to a victory, Daniels said, will be for the team to continue its team-oriented style of play it showed in a 55-28 victory over Santa Cruz Jan. 15 in Wilson Dome.
That win was made possible, Daniels said, by crisp passing to wide open players even when the passer might have had a good look of her own at the basket. As evidence of the unselfish play, the coach points to a well-rounded offense that produced four players in double figures.
"That was our goal before the game to score at least 55 points and have four (in double figures)," Daniels said. "We did both."
The scoring leaders included Stephanie Robertson (14), Rheanna Martinez (11), Sidney Swartwood (10) and Kaitlan Wilkins (10).
Robertson did most of her damage in the first quarter when she scored eight points to jump start the Lady Horns out to an 19-8 lead.
In addition to an efficient offense, the Horns thrived on a 1-2-1-1 full-court press during the first half that held SC to only 12 points.
In the second half, Daniels switched to an equally adept 1-3-1 half court trap that gave up just four third-quarter points.
In the final stanza, the coach emptied the bench and SC was able to post its most prolific stanza of the evening with 12.
Daniels said that down the road Horn fans can expect more of the full and half-court trapping defenses the team showed against SC.
In order to help an offense click and a defense hold opponents to just one shot, a team must sport good rebounding.
Against SC, the Horns had just that in Martinez, a sophomore, who corralled a game high 19 retrieves.
It was an effort on the glass that would leave Dennis Rodman swelling with pride.
Swartwood corralled nine missed shots and Robertson had six.
The Horns thrived on "O" and "D" but did stumble at the charity stripe where they hit only four of 12 attempts for a miserable 33 percent.
In Monday morning's practice session in preparation for the Bears, Daniels focused on correcting free throw problems and also at juicing up the Horn fast break that has been led recently by senior point guard Elizabeth Gille.
Daniels said he'd like to see the Horns run, run and run some more during the closing stages of the season.
After tonight's encounter, the Lady Horns will jump back into Central Division fires Friday evening at 7 p.m. against the Miami Vandals. The game will be played in old PHS gym rather than Wilson Dome where a wrestling tournament will be contested.