The 2000 hardwood campaign wrapped up for the Longhorn boys' basketball team Tuesday evening the same way it began in November -- by absorbing an old-fashioned rear-end thumping.
The Horns' last rites -- to the tune of 75-38 -- were doled out by the Round Valley Elks during opening round play of the White Mountain Regional Tournament in Eagar.
The Elks, who entered the tournament as the regular season sixth-place finisher, advance to quarter final action.
Payson's loss puts a welcome end to a doleful season that saw the Horns finish 3-20 overall and 0-12 in region play.
At the onset of the season, in a controlled scrimmage against Monument Valley, it became painfully clear to those in attendance that the 1999-2000 edition of the boys' team wasn't going to be a competitive one.
Although no score was kept, Monument Valley ran roughshod over a Payson team that lacked height, experience and scoring ability.
The lack of prolific scorers was never more evident than in the season-ending tournament loss to Round Valley. The Horns didn't have a single player score in double figures. Senior Keith Stevens was the offensive leader finishing with just nine points, six of which came in the opening minutes when he sank two three-pointers.
The losing trend which began in November continued throughout the year. The only wins the Horns could muster were a single triumph in the Winslow tournament and two in the Camp Verde Invitational.
Coach Randy Wilcox, in his second year at the helm of the program, said his players were ready to put the struggles of the campaign behind them and begin focusing on the spring sports of baseball and track and field.
Alchesay pushed to brink
Based on the results of an earlier meeting between the two East region rivals, the Payson Longhorns were not given much of a chance to play on even terms with the Alchesay Falcons when the two clashed Friday evening in Whiteriver.
The Falcons -- the region's top-ranked team and No. 1 seed to state -- established their dominance over Payson Jan. 18 in Wilson dome whipping the listless Longhorns 80-42.
In the blowout, the Horns owned the services of Sterling White and Tyler Pettet who have since been sidelined with injuries.
Despite Payson's dismal record, poor initial showing against the Falcons and lack of two starters, the Horns mustered the wherewithal Friday to give Alchesay all they could handle before falling 61-55.
The game, coach Randy Wilcox said, represented "a great effort. I told the players this was a victory -- not a win -- but it was a victory."
The key to the improvement of the team was more accurate outside shooting and a devil-may-give-a-squat attitude.
"We were hitting shots that we should have been making all year long and we played loose; like we had nothing to lose -- which we didn't," Wilcox said.
With only 20 seconds remaining in the ferocious hardwood duel, the Longhorns found themselves in the unusual position of being close enough on the scoreboard to rally for a victory.
Trailing 59-55, Wilcox called for the intentional fall hoping his charges could capitalize on missed Falcon free throws.
However, the Falcons took advantage of the situation by cashing in on the charity tosses which helped nail down the triumph.
The outcome of the contest wouldn't have had to wait until the final few seconds, had the Longhorns played the second quarter with the same vigor they did the first.
At the conclusion of opening stanza, the Longhorns led 26-15 and appeared well on their way to the biggest upset of the prep season.
But almost as quickly as the Longhorn wagon rolled out to the lead, the wheels fell off when the team scored only three points in the entire second quarter. The Horns' stalled offense allowed the Falcons to roar back into contention and forge a 31-29 halftime lead.
The demise of Longhorn hopes could be greatly attributed to the team's inability to contain the shooting of Joe Parker.
The Falcon shooting star finished with a game-high 21 points -- 15 of which came on three-point bombs.
And, it was Parker who made two crucial free throws in the game's final seconds
For the Longhorns, Keith Stevens and Matt Carter tied for scoring honors with 12 points each. In Carter's tally, 10 were scored during the Horns' red-hot first quarter. David Shaw contributed 10 points and Andrew Easton had five. Joe Sanchez, David LaForge, Ty Bennett and Nolan Blalock scored four each.