Playing without scoring and rebounding leader Rheanna Martinez --who quit the team Jan. 25 --the Lady Horns broke a five-game losing streak, whipping the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets 48-36.
The win, posted Friday in Wilson dome, evens the Lady Longhorns' East Region credentials at 5-5 and sets the stage for a crucial encounter this evening (Feb.10) in Show Low.
If the Lady Horns can salvage a win over the homestanding Cougars, Payson would probably finish fourth in the division. A loss, however, could drop Payson to fifth behind Show Low.
The difference in the two regular season finishes is significant in that the fourth-place team stays at home as host when regional playoffs open Feb. 8.
The fifth-place squad must vacate its friendly home confines and travel to the site of a harder seed.
Throughout the East campaign, the home court has proven to be a distinct advantage and Lady Horn coach Jerry Daniels says he'd very much like to open the playoffs in Wilson dome.
In addition to tonight's clash in Show Low, the Horns have one other game remaining on the East regular season slate.
Originally scheduled to be played Dec. 11 in Whiteriver, the game date was changed by Alchesay officials to Feb. 3.
Because Alchesay is a region leader, the outcome of the make-up contest won't significantly change Payson's final standing if the Horns are able to whip Show Low.
The Lady Horns already own a victory over Show Low, having survived a 57-51 thriller Jan. 8 in Wilson dome.
In Payson's Friday evening win over Blue Ridge, Kaitlin Wilkins and Brandi Waugh shouldered most of the scoring load with Martinez now departed.
Wilkins finished with 18 points and Waugh 13. Jennifer Plumb contributed six points, Ashli Herrera had four and Sidney Swartwood four.
After a slow start in which Payson led only 17-14 at half, the Lady Horns rallied with more spirited play in the final two quarters.
"They looked pretty good in the second half -- more relaxed and playing as a team," Daniels said.
Tip off this evening in Show Low is 6 p.m.