The regular season comes to a halt this evening in Wilson Dome when the Longhorn boys basketball team hosts the league-leading Show Low Cougars. Tip off is 7:30 p.m.
The cats enter the fray as the heavy favorites, having won two previous meetings between the two teams.
But playing the roll of underdog and then coming out with a victory is nothing new for the Longhorns.
Jan. 22, the Horns played host to a Snowflake Lobo squad that had humbled them earlier in the year by 27 points. In the second encounter between the two East region rivals, the Horns turned the table on the Lobos in a 65-60 upset.
Coach Mike Loutzenheiser is hoping for that same type of Herculean effort tonight against the Cougars.
"That's what it will take to win," he said.
But, based on the up-and-down performances of the team, pulling off an upset of that magnitude is a huge question mark.
After ambushing Snowflake, the Horns turned around and shot themselves in the foot, losing 59-56 to lowly Alchesay Saturday evening in Wilson Dome.
In an earlier meeting of the teams, Jan. 15 at Alcheshay, Payson ran past the Falcons 60-52.
So, which team will show up tonight? The one that beat the powerful Lobos or the won that lost to East region cellar dweller Alchesay?
Split weekend twin bill
The disturbing loss to the Falcons was tempered a bit by the Longhorns 51-32 road kill one day earlier in Round Valley.
After jumping out to a 17-8 lead, the Horns expanded it to 28-16 at halftime.
Throughout the evening, the Horn defense held the Elks in check, allowing only one double-digit scorer Layton Hamblin (11 points).
With the Horns man-to-man D playing tenaciously, the Horns rode the scoring of Waylon Pettet and Mike Barr to the victory.
Both finished with 16 points. Nicky Cassuto tallied nine and Derek Daniels had three.
In the loss to Alchesay Saturday, the Falcons called upon a hack-a-Mike strategy similar to what professional teams do to defend Los Angeles Laker star Shaquille O'Neal.
Each time 6-foot, 5-inch Barr tried to power his way to the basket over the shorter Falcon players, he was fouled.
Barr was successful on 13 of the whopping 20 free throw attempts he was awarded. Although Barr spent much of his time at the line, most of the fouls in the game were not committed by Alchesay.
Ticketed for 29, Payson sent the Falcons to the line for 42 attempts.
Although the Falcons were successful on only 23, those points proved to be more than the difference in the final score.
A few less fouls and Payson could have emerged the winner.
After getting off to a 13-9 lead, the Horns began to wilt under the Falcons 22 second-quarter points.
Trailing 47-36 early in the fourth quarter, the Horns made the game interesting by outscoring Alchesay 20-12 down the stretch.
Highlights of the Payson rally were a three-pointer by Daniels and clutch seven-of-eight free throw shooting from Barr.
Although Alchesay tallied only a pair of two-point field goals in the final quarter, they were able to maintain the lead with their free throw shooting.
Barr finished as the Horns leading scorer with 21 points. Daniels tallied nine and Pettet contributed seven.
Alchesay brought to Payson a well-rounded scoring attack in which nine of the 11 roster players scored.