A strong showing against one of the 4A conference's premier teams has apparently convinced Longhorn boy's basketball coach Mike Loutzenheiser his mostly young and untested players can compete against the state's best.
Following the teams 69-59 loss Nov. 25 in Apache Junction, the coach said, "I'm glad we got to play someone like that, it showed us we can play with the good 4A schools."
Payson High is a first-year member of the 4A conference after spending more than two decades playing the 3A schools of small town Arizona.
The Horns (1-1) made their 4A debut Nov. 24 in a 66-51 win over Phoenix Notre Dame.
In losing the following evening to the Prospectors, Payson was done in by one of Arizona's finest players -- Steve Elman.
The AJ forward's hardwood talents turned painfully obvious to Payson in the fourth quarter with the Horns trailing 57-56.
With the outcome of the hotly contested game in doubt, Elman lit up the Horns for 18 points most of which were scored in the final four minutes.
"That part of the game turned into the Steve Elman show," Loutzenheiser said. "He showed why he's an all-state player."
Elman eventually finished with a game-high 29 points.
Although the team lost to AJ, the Horns' floor play was much more polished than in the season opening win over Notre Dame.
"We played so much better, I'm much happier with it," Loutzenheiser said.
The Payson offensive effort was paced by 19 points from Mike Barr.
Cort Connolly finished with 13 points that included a trio of three pointers. Donnie Wilbanks contributed nine and Wellington Cassuto had eight.
The Longhorns return to the hardwood at 7 p.m. this evening against Scottsdale Coronado. The game will be preceded by freshman (4 p.m.) and jayvee (5:30 p.m.) clashes.
Just two cans of food will earn fans a $2 admission discount. The regular price of $4 for adults and $3 for students will be reduced to $2 and $1 for those who donate the food.
The cans will be given to the PHS Key Club which will in turn donate it to the local food banks. The food eventually helps the less fortunate during the holiday season.