Longhorns Tame Cougars, 67-59

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The Payson High School varsity boys basketball team did battle at home Tuesday night against Chino Valley in a game that the Longhorns won in overtime, 67-59.

Chino Valley started out with an early 6-4 lead which they held onto throughout the first period. The Cougars struggled bringing the ball down the court as the Longhorn full court press more than once came close to preventing them from crossing center court. Payson however had its own struggles down low at the post. By the end of the first period, Chino held tight to a close 4-point lead at 16-20.

The Horns hit the court in the second period with a vengeance, and a hot 3-pointer by Payson's Ky Bradley lifted Payson into the lead at 21-20. The Cougars fought back though and with 3:30 left in the half, Chino Valley again held the lead with a score of 26-22. Despite some great hustle and fierce aggressiveness, Payson could only bring themselves within 3 as the buzzer ended the first half with a score of 34-31.

The Horns struggled in the third period and provided little challenge to Chino Valley offensively on the boards. With four minutes left in the third, Payson held a 38-34 lead.

Then, Tyler Pettet sprained his left ankle. After being carried off the floor, he spent the remainder of the game watching from the bench. Payson went on to extend their lead to 9 with an ending third period score of 50-41.

The Cougars increased their defensive intensity in the paint during the fourth period which resulted in a Chino Valley comeback.

With four minutes left to play, Payson had back-to-back turnovers, both as a result of sloppy passing. With 3:03 left on the clock, Chino Valley whittled Payson's lead to 5. Payson continued to fall apart with three more turnovers, reducing Payson's lead to 2 with a score of 56-54 with 1:23 to go.

That's where the score stayed until the last two seconds, when the Cougars found the hoop was fouled by Payson as the buzzer sounded. That tied the score. It all boiled down to Chino Valley's charity toss, which bounced off the rim, sending the game into overtime.

Sterling White who had been a dominant force down low throughout the game started the Horns out with an 8-foot jumper. With 2:01 to go, Payson was up 63-56. When the clock finally ran out, the final score was 67-59 with Payson capturing the win.

When asked about the obvious change in focus during the overtime period, White said it had a lot to do with determination.

"It just came down to if we really wanted it bad enough or not and we showed what we had and that we're a good team," he said.

White said he felt the Horns offense was key to the win. "None of us were selfish and we're always dishing the ball, and that makes a difference," he said.

Another standout in the game was Bradley whose speed and ball-handling skills kept the Cougars one step behind. Despite an outstanding night, Bradley said he's recovering from a cold and it affected his stamina.

"I was running out of energy pretty fast and that made it tough for me," he said. "These guys (Chino Valley) shoot a lot of threes so we were really trying to bust out and keep them from doing that."

The Horns are now 6-3 overall and 2-0 in region play. Payson travels to Blue Ridge Thursday and Show Low Friday for two tough 3A East games before the Christmas break. The Horns return to action Dec. 27 and 28 for the Camp Verde tournament.

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