At the onset of the prep basketball campaign, Payson High second-year boys' basketball coach Randy Wilcox said one of his hopes for the young and inexperienced players was for them to be competitive in East region battles.
While the team has been stonewalled in some games -- Payson has shown on occasions it can play with the best.
Such an encounter took place Jan. 4 in the dome against the powerful Snowflake Lobos which entered the fray favored to run roughshod over the Horns and eventually claim the East title. After the Longhorns built a 37-34 halftime lead and continued to cling to a 51-48 cushion when play opened in the fourth quarter, the Lobos were left reeling.
However, over the course of the final stanza, Payson was outscored 26-16 and dropped a 74-67 heartbreaker they had every opportunity to win.
Despite the loss, Wilcox said he was heartened by the efforts of the team, "We never gave up even though they (Snowflake) had a definite height advantage."
The coach cited the efforts of three players who turned in commendable performances.
"David LaForge, David Shaw and Brad Bynum stepped up and really played a good game," he said.
LaForge finished with 17 points, Shaw had 18 and Bynum five plus some overall good floor play.
Other offensive contributors were Sterling White (18), Andrew Easton (four) and Joe Sanchez (four).
Due to a back injury, the Longhorns were without the services of junior Tyler Pettet, who as a starter in early season play, was regarded as a decent three-point shooting threat.
Even without a full contingent of players, the outcome of the game might have been different had the Longhorns cashed in on the free throws awarded them. Finishing only 11 for 23 (48 percent) from the line, as the Horns did against Snowflake, is no way to knock off a title contender.
"Our free throws hurt us again," Wilcox said.
Misfiring on charity attempts has been a problem for the Longhorns most of the season. In an early season loss to Santa Cruz, Payson made only five and 15 freebies and had a player miss seven of eight free throws in the final quarter alone.
The team members will have the opportunity to reverse the poor showings from the line in practice sessions this week. The team is not scheduled to return to play until Jan. 14 against Round Valley. Game time is 7:30 p.m. in Wilson dome.