The Payson High School girls varsity basketball team took the action on the road to a three-day tournament in Laughlin last weekend, competing against 16 other teams from around the Southwest.
Payson's first game was against Calapatria High School from California. Coach Shawn Hardt said he was proud of his team's performance.
"They played really well and dominated the other team," Hardt said. The final score in that match was 77-36 with Payson easily capturing the win.
Next, Payson faced Meadow High from Nevada and grabbed yet another win, with the final score 68-51. If either of those games seemed anywhere near easy, that came to an end as Payson faced River Valley.
"We were in the game until late in the fourth quarter, when they began to pull ahead," Hardt said. "We missed 25 layups in that game, so we got enough looks at the basket. We just struggled on our execution."
As time ran out Payson was down with a final score of 55-45.
The loss knocked Payson into the consolation bracket to determine third- and fourth-place in the tournament. Bradshaw Mountain was their next opponent.
"That game was close," Hardt said. It was another hotly contested battle in which Bradshaw pulled ahead in the third quarter, and they stayed on top for the rest of the game.
"We could beat that team (Bradshaw), but they just played better in that particular game," Hardt said. He also said Payson's defense struggled late in the game. "The defense just let down at the end."
Payson did have its bright spots in that game as well, the coach said.
Samantha Ellsworth had 10 points, many of which were scored late in the game. "She really stepped up and made things happen," Hardt said.
Reanna Martinez made her presence known as a standout player, turning in an average of 29 points per game throughout the tournament.
The tournament was tough, the coach said, and the players were high spirited, as evidenced by some heated exchanges on the court.
"Ashley Herrera looks like a boxer with a bit of a black eye when she got poked pretty good," Hardt said.
Despite the two losses, Payson placed fourth out of the 16 teams in the tournament. Hardt says it was a learning experience.
"We all learned one thing and that is that we can compete with any of those teams," he said. "This team really has a lot of heart and should be able to really make some things happen this year."
Payson's varsity girls will join with their jayvee counterparts on the road tonight against Santa Cruz. Their next home game is this Thursday against Pinnacle High School in their first 3-A East Conference game of the season.