If the age-old adage, "That which does not kill you will serve to make you stronger," is valid, Randy Wilcox will resemble Hercules by the time the prep basketball season has ended.
The second-year Payson High School boys' basketball coach has survived just about every hoop horror imaginable during a 3-16 campaign, low lighted by 0-8 credentials in the East region.
Rendering the losses even more tough to deal with is the fact several have been by lopsided margins.
As if the defeats weren't enough of a burden to shoulder, another plague recently struck the Longhorn hardwood program when several players were sidelined with a variety of injuries.
"We started the season with 11 varsity players and were down to eight, maybe seven," Wilcox said.
Among the MIAs are Tyler Pettet and Joe Sanchez.
Later this week, Sterling White -- the team's tallest player at 6 feet 5 inches -- is scheduled to undergo knee surgery and will be lost for the remainder of the season.
Pettet's absence is due to a back injury he's been battling all season long. Late last week the youngster decided to step aside and allow his back to heal properly.
Sanchez's loss to the team occurred during a (54-46) loss to Round Valley Saturday evening in the Eagar dome.
One of the few seniors on the team and the starting point guard, Sanchez injured his knee while running down a loose ball that bounded into the stands.
Wilcox said he expected the worst after seeing the impact of Sanchez crashing into the bleachers. "At first I thought he had broken (his knee), but X-rays showed no break; there is soft tissue damage."
The status of Sanchez is uncertain as the team travels to Snowflake today (Tuesday) for an East Region clash.
"I kind of doubt we will have him," Wilcox said.
Another player battling an injury is guard Sam Rudd who, like Pettet, is suffering from a bad back.
Rudd, however, will probably be available to finish out the season, Wilcox says.
To help relieve the player crunch, the Horn coach has called up Matt Carter from the jayvee team.
As a varsity team member, the youngster has done "a pretty good job," Wilcox said.
On the bright side
With a dismal season record, players falling by the wayside and slim hopes for any future victories, what can a coach do to keep the listing Horn ship from sinking?
Wilcox insists there are positives for the players to look forward to.
"We have to celebrate the small victories like the good pass, the nice shot or good defense," he said. "We have to look to each other for that kind of support."
Without White, Pettet and probably Sanchez in the lineup, the burden of scoring, rebounding, ball handling and defending will fall squarely on the shoulders of remaining veteran players.
They include Keith Stevens, Brad Bynum, David LaForge, Ty Bennett, David Shaw, Nolan Blalock and Rudd if he's able to continue.
The smidgen of favorable news is that the season is drawing to a conclusion. After today's game against Snowflake, only Blue Ridge (Jan. 28) and Show Low (Feb. 1) remain on the regular season schedule.
The regional playoffs begin Feb. 8 at the home site of the highest seed. With the seventh-place finisher --probably Payson-- scheduled to play the sixth-place finisher, the Horns will most likely travel. The sixth-place finisher is yet to be determined.