With a 58-38 drubbing of Pinnacle, the Longhorns' boys basketball team (4-3) sports its first winning record since midway through the 1998 campaign.
The victory also jump starts the Horns to a 1-0 record in the East region sprint for a top four finish and the resulting berth into the season ending state tournament.
"It always nice to win your first (regional) game, especially at home," coach Randy Wilcox said.
Although the win over the first-year school won't go down as a victory over the likes of perennial tough guys Snowflake, Show Low and Round Valley, it did set the stage for the Horns to jump into a first place East tie.
A win over Holbrook this evening (Tuesday) in Wilson Dome would elevate the Horns to the prestigious top spot. Varsity game time is 7:30 p.m. ,Freshman (4:30 p.m.) and jayvee (6 p.m.) games will also be played.
Wilcox said he doesn't know a great deal about Holbrook but expects the Roadrunners to be a formidable team.
"We didn't see them at the (Winslow) tournament, but they are always competitive," the coach said.
Slow start, strong finish
The win over Pinnacle could be attributed to a wellbalanced scoring attack that saw all but two players on the 12-man roster break into the scoring column.
Riding the crest of a second quarter hot shooting touch, guard Dusty Brockett led the team in scoring with 15 points.
In the second stanza, Brockett put on a shooting clinic by sinking a trio of point bombs that helped the Horns churn out one of their most productive quarters of the young season.
The 23 points scored during the period also propelled Payson from a 7-5 deficit to a 28-11 halftime lead.
While the Horns cooled off a tad in the second half, the offense remained efficient enough for the Horns to keep their 20 point cushion.
In addition to Brockett's production, the Horns received commendable showings from its two low post stalwarts Sterling White and Mike Doss.
White finished with nine points and Doss had eight. The team was playing without their low post reserve Jeremy Greenberg who was ill.
Following the game, Wilcox said he was happy with the victory but remained disappointed with the team's first quarter performance when it scored only five points.
"We missed seven of our first eight shots and never got into our offense," Wilcox said.
A similar inept performance against one of the East front runners would put the Horns in a hole they might not be able to dig out of, the coach said.
The victory also featured a touch of the rare and unusual when the Horns had the opportunity to jump out to a 2-0 lead before the first tick of the clock had run out.
Because Pinnacle was ticketed for dunking during pre-game warmups, Payson was awarded two charity tosses prior to tip off.
However, the Horns came up short when their designated free throw shooter Tyler Pettet missed both freebies.
The team finished only 6 of 16 from the free throw line, which also concerned Wilcox.
"That (poor free throw shooting) has been a problem all year," he said. It's something we have to correct."