Following a 10-day break, the Longhorn basketball teams return to action today (Tuesday) against the Holbrook Roadrunners.
Coach Mike Loutzenheiser's boys varsity team travels to Holbrook for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off against the Roadrunners.
In Wilson Dome beginning at 7 p.m., Shaun Hardt's Lady Longhorns play host to the Lady Runners.
The games mark the first time the two PHS teams have played since both wrapped-up tournament appearances Dec. 1.
During the lapse in play, both coaches have used the practice time to tune up their offenses and defenses in preparation for all-important holiday tournaments and East region action which will begin in early January.
When the boys team (0-6) tips off this evening, it will be looking for its first win of the campaign. A Payson victory would also be Loutzenheiser's first as a varsity head coach.
If the Horns are to emerge victorious, one of the major improvements the team must make is at the free-throw line.
During early season play, the Horns have sent their opponents to the stripe all too frequently. For example, in a 77-70 loss to Flagstaff Coconino, Payson was ticketed for 29 fouls which allowed Flagstaff 37 free throws.
Also from the line, the Horns must improve on their own sporadic free-throw shooting which was lowlighted with a two-for-nine showing in a 65-60 loss to Red Mesa.
If Payson sports an advantage in the front court, it's 6-foot, 5-inch sophomore Mike Barr who can battle with the best of the big men in small town high school basketball.
One of Barr's best outings came in the second half of the loss to Red Mesa when he banged his way inside for 14 points. Barr finished the game with 18 after being held scoreless in the first quarter.
Junior swingman Waylon Pettet is another Horns' scoring threat. Although he hasn't been a consistent double-figure scorer, Pettet tallied 20 in the loss to Coconino and 14 in the Red Mesa defeat.
Since he assumed the reins of the basketball program, Loutzenheiser has stressed solid defense, good floor play and proper shot selection.
If during the past practice week the players have been able to shore up those areas, the Horns will be primed and ready this evening to return home with that elusive first "W."
Ladies on a roll
Payson takes to the floor tonight boasting a five-game winning streak and a 5-1 record.
During that streak, four of the victories were chalked up at the River Valley Tournament held Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 near Laughlin.
In winning the tournament championship, the Lady Horns showcased a well-balanced scoring attack and a 1-2-2 match zone defense that could eventually prove to be keys to even more victories.
Sophomore point guard Whitney Hardt who turned in a career-high performance of 25 points in the RV tournament engineers the Horns' express.
When called upon, she can penetrate defenses, hit the three-ball or dish off to teammates driving in the hoop.
Although she's a good one, the Horns' early season successes have been fueled by a combination of solid leadership, unselfish team play and rousing support of key reserves.
Since winning the River Valley title, coach Hardt has lauded the leadership of Brandi Waugh, the toughness of Ashli Herrera and the tenacity of Laura Crabtree. Almost every other player has also drawn plaudits from the coach who says this is a team he really enjoys coaching.
"They work hard and are a lot of fun. What more can you ask," he said.
With Trista Carlton and Brooke McRae down low, the Horns have a pair of front court players who could develop into solid rebounders, defenders and scorers.
Freshman guard Haylee Huff showed in a 56-45 win over Hopi she might have the stuff varsity players are made of. Playing a good overall floor game, Huff finished with a season-high eight points.
The Payson roster also is dotted with role players among them Michelle Closs, Shalynn McGee and Misti Roberson who have shown the potential to contribute to the Horn cause when called upon.