The fate of the Longhorn boys' basketball team is sealed.
No matter the outcome of the team's regular season finale -- this evening (Friday) at Whiteriver Alchesay -- the Horns (currently 0-11) -- will finish 7th in the East region standings. As the last-place finisher, Payson will open the playoffs Feb. 8 probably in Round Valley against the 6th seeded Elks.
The Horns opponent could change depending on the results of other season-ending games around the region.
As the cellar dwellers, the Longhorns are in the unenviable position of playing a higher seeded team on the road. But that hasn't dampened the resolve of the team to salvage a win.
"We talked about it (being in last place) and we can play the role of the spoilers -- that's our goal now," coach Randy Wilcox said.
For the Horns to pull off the upset, the coach said, the Horns would have to have an outstanding night and their opponent an off night. "It can happen," he said.
If the Horns can rack up a tournament opening round victory, they would advance to a quarterfinals game the following evening against the East's three-seed.
Hopes for Horn victories in the tournament will rest on the shoulders of a lineup depleted by injures. Three-point specialist Tyler Pettet stepped aside two weeks ago with an ailing back and only days later the team's tallest player -- 6 foot, 5 inch Sterling White --underwent knee surgery.
To compound matters, senior Joe Sanchez suffered a severe lower leg injury Jan. 22 in Eager Round Valley. Luckily, for Horn faithful, he returned to action Jan. 28 in a 75-63 loss to Blue Ridge in Wilson dome.
With the loss of the players, Wilcox called up Matt Carter from the jayvee team and the youngster has responded pretty well, the coach said. Carter finished with 11 points in the loss to Blue Ridge. Tallying 21 points, senior Keith Stevens was the scoring leader.
Also contributing were Sanchez with 16 and Andrew Easton who tallied eight. David Shaw scored four.
On most Payson High basketball schedules, The East region contest against Alchesay was slated for Dec. 11.
However, that game was rescheduled to Feb. 4 at the request of Alchesay high school officials.
Game times in Whiteriver will be 7:30 p.m. (varsity), 4:30 p.m., (jayvee) and 6 p.m. (frosh).