With an 11-3 record and a third place finish in the East behind champion Round Valley and runnerup Snowflake the Lady Longhorns hoop squad earned a bye in the first round of the regional playoffs and home-court advantage in the second round.
That game against the winner of a first round matchup this evening between Holbrook and Blue Ridge will be played at 7 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday) in Wilson dome.
If the Lady Horns emerge victorious Wednesday, the team will travel to Show Low Feb. 9 and 10 to participate in the final rounds of the East tournament.
The top four finishers in Show Low will then be seeded into the Class 3A state tournament scheduled to begin Feb. 13 on the campus of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
At state, the East's fourth-place tournament finisher will be paired against the North region champion. East's two-seed plays North's three, and East three takes on North's number-two. The East region champion opens against North's fourth place finisher.
The pairing of the East against the North in the state's first round represents a tough hurdle for small town Arizona teams.
The North, which is comprised of mostly Northern Arizona reservation schools, is considered a hotbed of basketball. In past years, the 3A stat champion has usually been a North team.
The 3A state tournament continues Feb. 13 and 14 at America West Arena in Phoenix. Semifinal rounds will be played Feb. 23.
The state championship is scheduled for 2 p.m. Feb. 24 in America West.
On the roster
The Horns enter the regional showdown armed with one of the most prolific scoring machines in the state.
Senior Reanna Martinez a four-year letter winner and a consistent double digit scorer turned in her best outing of the season Jan. 20 in a 79-77 overtime loss to Round Valley.
The high flying sharpshooter almost single handily led the Horns to victory finishing with a season-high 37 points.
The youngster was also red hot Jan. 19 in a 64-52 road victory over Holbrook.
Growing frustrated with her scoring antics as the game wore on, the Roadrunners sent her to the line for a whopping 19 free throws 11 of which came in the fourth quarter.
Finishing with 30 points, only a poor night at the charity stripe (6-for-19) kept Martinez reasonably in check.
Coach Shaun Hardt has called upon his stalwart to play all five positions on the floor, including point guard.
The youngster says she will gladly play any spot but enjoys the low post most. "I like getting the ball close to the basket."
While Martinez has been the scoring leader throughout most of the campaign, she's not the only ammunition in the Horn arsenal.
Brandi Waugh, LeeAnn Owens and Jennifer Plumb have all shown they can fill up the nets when called upon.
Offense puts points on the board, but it's defense that Hardt in his first year at the helm of the program has stressed all season long.
Using 2-2-1 and 1-2-1 presses as well as a matchup zone, the Horns have been able to consistently disrupt opposing offenses.
On 'D" it's been hard-nosed forward Samatha Ellsworth who has drawn much of the coach's praise.
In a 56-32 win over Blue Ridge Jan. 26, Hardt credited Ellsworth for turning the game around after the Lady Horns got off to a sluggish start.
"She (Ellsworth) played super defense," the coach said.
Others who have contributed offensively and defensively to the Horns run through the regional chase include Ashli Herrera, April Cheek and Trista Carlton.
Jayvee standouts Brooke Bennett and Amy Wilcox have donned varsity uniforms on occasions.
Freshman Whitney Hardt, the coach's daughter, was brought up to the varsity team in mid-season and showed a great deal of promise at point guard.
However, she suffered a pulled and partially torn hamstring three weeks ago and was sidelined while undergoing rehabilitation.
She is expected to be at near full strength for the playoffs.
Playing what Shaun Hardt called "good defense and fast break offense" Jan. 30 in Show Low High gymnasium, the Lady Longhorns ran roughshod over the Cougars, 62-45.
After jumping out to an early lead, the Rim crew went on to enjoy a 30-14 halftime cushion. The first half blitzkrieg produced enough points to allow the Horns to cruise to the victory by exchanging baskets with the Cougars throughout the final two quarters.
Following the game, Hardt cited Ellsworth for again playing "great defense" in the both the match up zone and presses.
Offensively, Martinez (16 points) and Waugh (15) paced the Longhorns.
Waugh, Hardt said, "is really on track ... playing well."
In taking game scoring honors, Martinez was most effective "in the paint," Hardt said.
In addition to the scoring of Martinez and Waugh, the Horns received 11 points from Ellsworth and eight from Herrera.
Other scorers included Carlton (6), Plumb (2), Cheek (2) and Whitney Hardt (2).
Whitney Hardt was seeing action for the first time since suffering the hamstring injury.
"We were testing the leg," Shaun Hardt said.