Daniels' Hoopsters Try Their Luck In Vegas

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Footloose and fancy free in fabulous Las Vegas, some might end up perched under the glittering lights of the fabled strip wooing Lady Luck.

But for a contingent of Rim country athletes who traveled to the city of no clocks last week, hoop -- rather than table games and slots -- was the sport of choice.

Participating in the Las Vegas Classic Girls' Summer Basketball tournament, played in the Vegas suburb of Henderson, the team -- comprised mostly of players vying for Lady Horn varsity roster spot next fall -- finished with a 2-3 record.

In the tournament were 43 girls' teams, mostly from California and Nevada.

The field, PHS coach Jerry Daniels said, was a highly competitive one that included several all-star teams, including a Las Vegas entry that drew top players from seven Class 5A high schools in the region.

The Vegas celestials dealt Payson one of its losses, a 48-30 defeat on the final day of the tournament.

"That team had the state's long-jump and high-jump champion," Daniels said. "On a lot of plays, her hand was either above or in the rim."

In other games, Payson lost to Moreno Valley, Calif., 38-33, and to a very tough Phoenix St. Mary's team ,48-34.

St. Mary's, Daniels said, was a well- disciplined, high-powered team with a lot of height that could contend for Arizona's 5A crown next season.

Against La Center -- representing the state of Washington -- Payson emerged victorious, 42-32, behind the scoring and all-around play of Rheanna Martinez and Sidney Swartwood.

Both are talented, veteran varsity- letter winners who excel much of the time on the hardwood moxie acquired from playing in the past two prep state tournaments.

Next school year, Swartwood will be a senior and Martinez a junior at PHS.

The Payson squad's other triumph was a 45-36 thumping of Flagstaff Sinagua.

The tournament, Daniels said, was a great experience for the girls, but also gave him the opportunity to assess the team's strengths and weaknesses before the 1999-2000 season tips off.

The coach returned to Payson impressed with the team's work ethic and effort, but determined to improve its defensive intensity.

"We will focus on defense for next year; it was a little weak," he said.

The coach intends on continuing to play mostly man-to-man defenses, but will mix in several combinations of zones, traps and presses.

Despite the shortcomings on D, the coach spouted praise for all who traveled to Las Vegas.

"The girls played really well, and some of the younger ones who haven't played (varsity) stepped up," Daniels said. "There's a lot of spirit on this team."

Those who participated on the traveling team included Brandi Waugh, Jenny Plumb, Lee Ann Owens, Kaitlin Wilkins, Jenny Randall, Jamie Peace, Sam Ellsworth, Swartwood and Martinez.

The tournament marks the end of the summer season for the prep hoopsters. Preseason practices will begin next November.

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