It'll be a case of deja vu all over again when the Longhorn boys' basketball team travels to the Fountain Hills Falcons at 7:30 p.m. this evening, Nov. 30. (The game was originally scheduled to be contested in the Rim country, but was switched to a road game at the last minute.)
From 1996 to 1998, when both schools were members of the now-defunct Central division, the two teams built a strong rivalry in several spirited regular season games and postseason shoot-outs.
The two teams have since gone their separate ways, Payson to the East division and Fountain to the West, but veteran members of both teams all too well remember the clashes of the past.
One of the keys to a Horn victory against FH could lie in the shooting hands of junior Tyler Pettet who turned red hot in the fourth quarter of a Nov. 23 78-54 loss to Chino Valley.
After being held scoreless in the first three quarters, Pettet heated up the nets in the final minutes of the game for a team-high 13 points.
During the onslaught, Pettet made good on a trio of three-pointers -- one from the top of the 19-foot, 9-inch arch, another from angle left and one from angle right.
In addition to the high school super shots, he cashed in on a two-point field goal and was two-for-two from the charity stripe.
If Pettet can shoulder that type of a scoring load for an entire game, the Longhorns could have the ammo to clip the Falcons' wings
In addition to a strong fourth-quarter showing from Pettet, the Horns received a head-turning defensive effort from senior point guard Joe Sanchez.
Finishing with nine steals, Sanchez was only one short of the school record of 10.
In the all-important turn-over/take-away statistic, Sanchez finished a sterling plus-11 with 12 recoveries and only one turnover. He also dished out three assists.
In addition to his strong game as the floor leader, Sanchez finished with five points which included an early three-pointer that got the Horns out to a 17-7 first quarter lead.
Lack of height
But the team could never maintain the cushion largely because of a lack of height and rebounding prowess.
After watching his team get out-rebounded 46-30, coach Randy Wilcox said, "Our center is 6-foot, 4-inches. They had a 6-foot, 9-inch kid with seven blocks."
Rebounding honors for Payson were garnered by Keith Stevens (8) and David Shaw (5).
But all the blame for the loss can't be placed on the Horns' rebounding -- or lack thereof. The team marksmen also must improve their accuracy rate. Shooting only 30 percent from the field and 40 percent from the line as they did against CV is not the way to win prep basketball games.
Being the gentleman he is, Wilcox will be the last to claim his team received an old-fashioned plateful of home-cookin' in Chino Valley, but statistics reveal CV was awarded 35 free throws and made good on 26.
Payson received just 13 charity tosses and cashed in on only six.
A 35-13 Chino free-throw advantage proved to be a huge obstacle for the young Horns to overcome.