After watching its East region record fall to 2-3 with back-to-back losses to Blue Ridge (57-34) and Snowflake (93-38), the Longhorn boys basketball's listing ship righted itself at the Yvonne Johnson Memorial Tournament.
Contested Dec. 27 and 28 in Camp Verde, the Horns played their way to a 2-1 record in six-team holiday shoot-out.
Payson stumbled in a 55-52 opening round loss to Fredonia, but rebounded the following day to whip Maricopa 55-45. Later that evening, the Horns were forced into overtime before outlasting Tucson Pusch Ridge 88-76.
In the victory over PR, Payson relied on a 19-7 advantage in the extra period to break a 69-69 deadlock.
During the OT, the Horn Calvary charge was led by Mike Doss, Brad Bynum and Dusty Brockett who combined for 13 of the team's 19 points.
Brockett was especially tough in the extra period, hitting four consecutive free throws. Earlier in the fourth quarter, when the outcome of the game was very much in doubt, the senior guard sunk two three-point long range bombs to help Payson erase a 56-50 deficit.
In addition to the late scoring from Brockett, the Horns received a long-range shooting exhibition from Tyler Pettet that would have turned Larry Bird green with envy.
Taking game scoring honors (23 points), Pettet cashed in on seven three-balls and was a perfect two-for-two from the charity stripe.
His hot hand in the first quarter four three-pointers helped the Horns from falling into the abyss.
In addition to the offensive show put on by Pettet, the Horns picked up double-digit scoring from Doss (19), Sterling White (13), Bynum (11) and Brockett (10).
Beat Maricopa, fall to Fredonia
The win over Maricopa, which erased the Horns' three-game losing streak, wasn't the offensive show that highlighted the Pusch Ridge clash.
After taking a 13-11 lead after one quarter, the Horns found themselves trailing 28-27 at halftime. The score see-sawed until early in the final quarter when Payson went on an 11-5 scoring spree that erased any doubt about the outcome.
In the final 10 minutes of play, the Longhorn defense turned rock solid, holding Maricopa to just five points.
Offensively, Payson rode of scoring of White (12), Bynum (11) and Doss (11). Nine of the 12 players on the roster ended up in the scoring column.
In losing to Fredonia, the Horns couldn't counter the scoring of Jacob Christensen, who claimed game honors with 27 points.
Although Payson managed to tie up the contest 41-41 early in the fourth quarter, the Horns never mustered the offense to take over the lead.
In several early season games, coach Randy Wilcox has lamented the Horns poor free-throw shooting saying, it was crucial to improve accuracy if the team was to be successful in its bid for a state tournament berth.
Against Fredonia, the coach's worst nightmare came true when the Horns cashed in on just four of 11 charity attempts. In the crucial late going with the outcome on the line, the Horns were 0-for-4.
Payson, 8-6 overall, returns to action Jan. 12 in Wilson Dome against the Round Valley Elks. Game times are 4:30 p.m. (frosh), 6 p.m. (jayvee) and 7:30 p.m. (varsity).