The Payson Panthers, a club basketball team for boys 14 years old and under, played break-even basketball in the Rim Fall Classic tournament Oct. 19 and 20 in Tonto Apache gymnasium.
Battling all-star teams from around Arizona, the Panthers coached by Rory Huff opened the tournament with two consecutive losses. The team then went on a three-game winning streak before losing its final game Sunday afternoon.
For Panther player Miles Huff, who engineered the offense most of the tournament from his point guard position, the opportunity to play against topnotch teams was a challenge.
"It was good for us," he said. "It should make us better when the (White Mountain League middle school/junior high) season begins."
Payson attorney Steve Rensch hosted the inaugural tournament that is an off-shoot of the Copper State Jam a competition that is held each January in three gyms around Payson. The Copper State hardwood affair draws more than 50 teams in three divisions large and small school and girls.
The Fall Classic drew eight teams, but Rensch said it could expand if enough interest is shown.
RCMS students Alex Bunk, Hunter Hardt, Morgan Cassuto, Matt Jones and Carlos Lopez were on the Panthers team. Brian Schwind represented Payson High School, while Harper Kamp was the lone Shelby school player.
Payson High School boys basketball coach Mike Loutzenheiser said he was elated that the boys had the experience of playing in the tournament and was looking forward to coaching the youngsters in the future.
The RCMS players are expected to form the nucleus of the eighth-grade Maverick team when WML play begins in January.