Following an 82-64 loss to Class 2A No. 1-ranked Valley Christian Dec. 20, second-year Longhorn boys basketball coach Mike Loutzenheiser had his players back on the court preparing for the Eastern Arizona College Tournament.
That tournament began last evening (Thursday) and will continue through Dec. 28. (no results available at press time).
The Longhorns headed to EA College in Thatcher sporting 4-4 credentials and cautiously optimistic that 6-foot 7-inch center Mike Barr could return to the team in a few weeks.
Barr injured a knee in the football season and was expected to be lost for the entire campaign.
However, the injury has been deemed not as serious as originally anticipated and Barr has been working out on the sidelines.
The junior, who drew raves from coaches at a San Diego summer camp, said he is eager to return to the lineup. With Barr in the low post, the Horns have a rebounder, defender and inside scorer who is one of the best in the region.
With Barr looking on during holiday practice sessions, Loutzenheiser has worked to iron out several problems that have surfaced during the early parts of the season.
Chief among his concerns is teamwork and camaraderie.
"We need to play together as a family," he said. "When we start to get down on each other and criticize, we play worse."
Also, Loutzenheiser will try to correct shooting problems that usually occur when the opposition plays a zone defense.
In a 47-38 loss to Simcoe of Ontario, Canada, the Horns couldn't hit the 15-foot jumpers the 3-2 zone was giving up.
"We got good looks, just couldn't make the shots," Loutzenheiser said.
The coach is also challenging the players to play hard the entire game.
"We have played inconsistently, great one half (of the game) and not good the other," he said.
Several of the players have drawn praise from the coach for their efforts.
In the Mohave tournament, Derek Daniels drew applause for his leadership and defensive toughness. Nick Cassuto and Chris Donaldson have also been lauded by Loutzenheiser as good defenders.
Following the team's return from EAC, it will begin preparations for a 7:30 p.m. showdown Jan. 4 in Wilson Dome against Tuba City.