Prep hoop action heats up the Rim country Friday and Saturday when several of the state's best teams lock horns in the Payson Summer Invitational Tournament.
On hand to participate in the fray are Mesa Mountain View, Phoenix Shadow Mountain, Scottsdale Horizon, Tucson Amphitheater, Scottsdale Arcadia, Phoenix North, Tucson Sabino and Payson.
As the only Class 3A school in the field, the Longhorns will find themselves in an uphill struggle against powerhouses representing both the 4A and 5A conferences.
The most heralded team in the field, Mountain View, has long reigned supreme among the big schools and will bring another talent-laden group to Payson that could again be a state championship contender next school year.
Shadow Mountain, the home of ex-University of Arizona great and current-pro Mike Bibby, also has a top-notch basketball program.
Coach Pat Derksen's Tucson Amphi team has been a part of the Payson tournament field for the past 10 years and will field a young but talented team. Derksen's team tuned up for Payson last weekend in a Flagstaff tournament.
Payson counters with a squad that lacks height and experience but thrives on a fast-break offense and a pressuring man-to-man defense. Occasionally, the team will play a zone.
On the front line, Payson could start 6-3 Sterling White, 6-1 David LaForge and 6-1 Brandon Peters.
In the back court, David Shaw, Andrew Easton and Brad Bynum have been responsible for the ball-handling chores.
The team will be without the services of Tyler Pettet, who is out of town attending a church camp.
The Payson roster is comprised mostly of fledgling players with only jayvee experience from last season. The entire starting line-up from the 1998-99 varsity -- Hunter Walden, Ryan Lorentz, Josh McRae, Jeremy Reynolds and Jeremy Hoff -- graduated in May.
"We are a young team -- not much varsity experience," said PHS' Teddy Pettet, who has been coaching the team during its summer outings.
Since May, the Payson hoopsters have been participating in the Sedona Summer League at Red Rock High School, playing games each Monday evening. Thus far, Payson has 2-4 record.
The tournament format will consist of a round robin among the eight teams, beginning at 11 a.m. today (Friday) and continuing until a 6 p.m. clash this evening between Horizon and North.
Action resumes Saturday at 9 a.m. and continues each hour until 4 p.m., when Payson plays Shadow Mountain. Games will be played in both Wilson Dome and the old high school gym.
Payson's schedule includes games today at noon (vs. Horizon in the dome), and 4 p.m. (vs. Mt. View in the dome).
Tomorrow Payson plays at 10 a.m. (vs. North in the gym), noon (vs. Amphi in dome) and the 4 p.m. shoot-out.
There is no admission charge to the games.