Despite an undefeated season thus far including their most recent victories last week in Eloy/Santa Cruz and here at home against Pinnacle the Payson High School girls basketball team coaching staff says the toughest matches may be yet to come.
The games in Santa Cruz not only added to Payson's winning streak, but also provided valuable experience for everyone on both team rosters.
"We played most of our second string throughout most of the game and it was really good for us because we have some young girls who haven't had a lot of experience and this was a good opportunity for them," varsity coach Shawn Hardt said.
The player substitutions had little if any negative effect on Payson's scoring, he said.
Payson scored 22 in the first quarter alone and another 17 before the half. Fourteen of Payson's 39 first-half points were scored by Reanna Martinez, who has established herself as one of the team's leading scorers. Martinez's domination both offensively and defensively is not a new story to those who follow Payson girls basketball. Hardt said some position changes in this game had a significant benefit for Payson.
"We put Reanna at point guard so we could free up Jennifer Plumb and Brandy Waugh, and it worked pretty good for us," he said.
"Moving Reanna out to the point guard position opens up the middle a lot more and really spreads the floor out and gives us a lot more scoring opportunities," Hardt said.
The changes in position mean the players have to re-think their approach to the game.
"Reanna did a great job, but we need to work more with getting her used to scoring from the point guard position," the coach said.
Waugh had 9 points in the game including a three-point field goal late in the third period. Plumb scored 8, which included another two 3-pointers in the fourth period. Everyone on the Payson team scored in the game including an outstanding performance turned in by Leann Owens who scored 6 points.
Santa Cruz scored only 42 points in the game, most of that came from Jennifer Jordan who scored 22 points.
"They had one really good player and trying to shut her down with one person while getting help-side defense to work was a little tough. We played just total man-to-man the entire game to address that," Hardt said.
Despite her stellar performance, despite Payson changing player assignments and despite Payson playing their second string throughout the game, the Lady Longhorns walked away with the 51-42 win. The Horns first conference game of the season was last Thursday against Pinnacle. Reanna Martinez scored 21 points in the game and Jennifer Plumb racked up a total of 19. Ashli Herrera put 13 points on the scoreboard followed by Brandi Waugh with 9, Whitney Hardt with 8, LeeAnn Owens with 6 and Samantha Ellsworth, April Cheek and Trista Carlson all shot two points east.
Throughout the four quarters of play, Pinnacle scored a total of 4 points, 2 in the second quarter and 2 in the 3rd.
On defense, Plumb lead the Horns with 8 steals followed by Martinez (5) and Waugh (4).
Despite the easy win, coach Hardt feels the upcoming 3-A East conference games are where the true challenge for his team begins.
"I'm not sure we're ready for 3-A East competition yet, so from here on out we're just working on defense in practice and breaking presses," he said.
Their next game is at home today (Tuesday) against Holbrook, with freshmen starting at 4:30 p.m., jayvee at 5:30 p.m. and varsity at 7 p.m.