Only a heartbreaking 55-54 loss to Safford prevented the Longhorns boys basketball team from winning the Eastern Arizona College Invitational Tournament.
After opening the tournament Dec. 26 in Thatcher with a 55-44 win over Duncan, the Horns dropped the one-point decision to the Bulldogs.
"It's a game we should have won," coach Mike Loutzenheiser said. "We shot 11 for 23 from the free-throw line and seven of those were the front end of a one-and-one."
After the loss to Safford, the Horns salvaged a bronze medal by edging Fort Thomas 60-56.
In a voting of coaches at the conclusion of the three-day invitational, Longhorns Derek Daniels and Kyle Hubbard were named to the all-tournament team.
As the point guard, Daniels is responsible for engineering the Longhorn offense.
"He did a great job of that," the coach said. "He had a good tournament."
According to the coach, Hubbard turned in his best three games of the season.
Loutzenheiser said he would like to see Hubbard become more offensive minded.
"He is unselfish almost to a fault," he said. "He needs to look to score and be more aggressive."
The good news in the Longhorn camp is that the team will soon have the services of 6-foot 7-inch Mike Barr who has been sidelined all season with a knee injury suffered in football. Originally, it was thought Barr would be lost to the team for the entire season. However, a follow-up examination of the injured knee revealed it was not as serious as doctors first thought.
Barr has said he is eager to return to the court and showcase the talent that helped him earn postseason honors last year as a sophomore. With his huge frame once again filling up the paint, the Horns will have a legitimate scoring threat from underneath and a defensive stopper who can take away easy layups and short jumpers.
The Horns return to action at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan 4 in Wilson Dome against the Tuba City Warriors.
After traveling to Winslow Jan. 7, the team tips off a stint of 10 East region games.
The results of those clashes, and a regional tournament Feb. 14 and 15 in Round Valley, will be used to seed region teams in the state tournament at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.