The holiday fray wasn't the prestigious Flagstaff Pepsi Cola Invitational the Longhorns have competed in during past years, but it was a good opportunity for the young team members to build confidence.
Participating for the first time in the Yvonne Johnson Memorial Shoot-Out Dec. 28 and 29 in Camp Verde, the Longhorns finished with a 2-1 record and a third-place finish among the six schools that participated.
The Horns opened with a 72-51 loss to Maricopa, but rebounded the following day with wins over Mayer (63-62) and Cibecue (108-71).
In all three games, the Longhorns were without the services of Tyler Pettet and Sam Rudd. Pettet was sidelined by a back injury and Rudd was out of town on a holiday vacation with family, coach Randy Wilcox said.
If there has been a bright moment in the Horns' 3-7 season, it was the victory over Cibeque -- a small reservation school southwest of Show Low.
With eight of the nine players on Payson's roster scoring in double figures, the Horns ran out to an early 27-16 lead, expanded it to 50-36 at halftime and then coasted to the easy win.
Scoring 58 points in the final two quarters, the Longhorns had their best offensive half of the still-young season.
Game scoring honors were garnered by Andrew Easton who tallied 18 points. Sterling White and David LaForge finished with 17 each.
In the one-point win over Mayer, Joe Sanchez (15), Easton 12), LaForge (11) and Keith Stevens (10) paced the Longhorns.
The loss to Maricopa could be partly attributed to the fact the Horns did not have a single player that finished in double figures.
Stevens and Sanchez shared high point honors with eight. David Shaw tallied seven.
Maricopa, Wilcox said, had several capable scorers including Randy Gardner who finished with 21 points, all of them in the first half.