Daniels Steps Down As Lady Horns' Coach

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Unable to find enough hours in the day to meet the demands of his profession, another coach has resigned at Payson High School.


Veteran Lady Longhorn basketball coach Jerry Daniels' resignation Monday comes only weeks after Dave Greiner stepped down as the boys soccer coach.


Greiner departed saying he needed more time to devote to his duties as senior pastor at a local church.


Like Greiner, Daniels cited time conflicts as his reason for stepping down.


"I want to spend more time with my family and be able to support the two boys I have coming up," he said.


Daniels' sons are participants in the school district's boys' basketball program.


Payson High School athletic director Barry Smith said Daniels' resignation must still be accepted by the governing board and he's in no hurry to find a successor.


"This is not like college where you just coach. We have to have teaching positions too," Smith said.


The only urgency the AD anticipates is finding a replacement before the onset of the all-important summer training season.


In choosing to relinquish his position, Daniels said he wanted to thank those who supported the team since he first assumed the varsity reins in 1994.


"There are some very special people who volunteered hundreds of hours helping build Payson High girls basketball into a successful program," Daniels said.


The volunteers he cited include Lot Christenson, Craig Swartwood, Jupe Hale and Glen Hale.


Over the course of the past six years, the foursome have served in various capacities including those of assistant coaches.

Recollections

Daniels -- who led the Lady Horns to four consecutive state tournament berths -- says he steps away from his head coaching duties somewhat reluctantly, but is buoyed by a wealth of fond memories.


In the early years -- after replacing Sharkey Baker -- Daniels built the foundation for the success of future teams around the sharp shooting antics of Colleen Hale.


Today, Hale continues to hold several school basketball records and was recently named one of Payson's top 10 athletes of the decade.


In addition to Hale's heroics, Daniels recalls vividly the contributions of many dedicated young players including Becky Larkins, Julie Gunzel, Mandi Mercer, Kendra Velasic and Amber Peterson.


However, a memory that continues to haunt him is one of the severe knee injury that ended the 1997 campaign for Mandi Mercer.


"That was one of my greatest sorrows," he says.


The team eventually advanced to the state quarterfinals, but was eliminated on a successful three-point Tuba City shot in the final seconds of play.

Making a mark on the state scene

For Daniels, 1997-98 was a dream year.

Led by seniors Amberlyn White, Erin Dahlman, Molly Hunt, Lindsey Heath, Raguel Reisdorf and junior Stephanie Robertson, the Lady Horns stampeded through the newly-created Central division with a vengeance. On the way to a 12-0 Central record (23-5 overall), the team set a school scoring standard of 64.5 points per game. A 102-46 win over Globe also established a school record for greatest victory margin and most points scored.


But almost every season has its downside risk and the year -- despite all the glory --was no different. The Lady Horns' spirited run to state gold came to a screeching halt in a heartbreaking 47-41 state tournament quarterfinals loss to eventual state champion Snowflake.


Daniels remembers the nightmarish defeat as "a bitter pill," he said. "The whole team had one of those infamous off nights."


Still stuck in his memory is Snowflake's ability to double team -- and shut down -- the high scoring low-post duo of Robertson and White.


When the Lady Horns turned to their outside shooting attack, it fired only blanks.


"We were normally deadly three-point shooters," Daniels recalls.


Determined to put the heartbreak of the loss to Snowflake behind them, Daniels and a solid nucleus of players, including Robertson, returned for the 1998-99 season optimistic that another state tournament run was in the cards.


But the season, the coach said, "took an early nose dive when Robertson sprained an ankle in the preseason scrimmage just two days before our first game."


Without the services of Robertson -- the team's scoring and rebounding leader -- the team struggled to a third-place Central division finish.


With 18-14 credentials, the Lady Horns were obviously reeling, but they refused to throw in towel.


During post-season tournament play, Payson pulled off the prep surprise of the year whipping highly regarded Central champion Fountain Hills. With the win went the rewards of a first-place seed into the state tournament in Flagstaff.


After an opening round victory, the Horns were unceremoniously dumped from post-season play by a talented Monument Valley team that continued on to win the state championship.


Obviously, the campaign ended earlier than Daniels and the players would have liked, but it also was highlighted by the spirited play of freshmen Jennifer Plumb and Brandi Waugh who lent new hope to the future.


During the recently concluded season, the pair. -- now sophomores -- joined forces with senior veterans Sidney Swartwood, Jamie Peace and Stormi Ewing to help the team compile a 14-10 record.


Also contributing to the PHS cause in the player mix were sophomore Lee Ann Owens and freshman Ashli Herrera.


"They all stepped up and played good ball," Daniels said.


But playing with a youth-laden lineup, Lady Horn aspirations for a fifth consecutive state berth ended prematurely last week in Wilson dome with a 60-39 opening round regional tournament loss to Show Low.


A state crown?

As Daniels departs the program, the cupboards are left full. His successor can build future teams around Plumb, Waugh, Owens, Herrera and a strong group of freshman and jayvee players.


The coach says the elements are in place for future teams to continue the chase for the school's first-ever girls basketball state crown.


"I know with some hard work and dedication there is a state championship out there for you," he told the team. "Go get it."

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