Veteran coach Chuck Hardt has returned to the hardwood scene after an absence of almost two decades.
After Hardt stepped down as the Longhorn varsity boys coach in the late-1980s, most of his energies went into coaching the highly successful PHS cross country and track and field teams. He's also a physical education teacher at PHS.
This summer, Hardt accepted the freshman boys coaching position at PHS and has the plebes off to a 2-0 start.
After defeating Phoenix Notre Dame 61-32 in the season opener Nov. 24, the frosh returned to the hardwood the following day in Apache Junction to defeat the Prospectors 50-44.
The young players, Hardt said, have talent but are still struggling to learn the nuances of the game.
In the win over Notre Dame, the team showcased a balanced offensive attack in which seven of the nine players on the roster scored. Hunter Hardt, the coach's son, led all scorers with a game-high 20 points. Bryson Addington tallied 15 and Alex Bunk had eight.
In the win, the Horns jumped out to a 14-5 early lead only to see the Saints put on a mild rally. At halftime, Payson held a precarious 25-18 lead.
In the third quarter, Payson ended any suspense about the outcome of the game by outscoring Notre Dame 18-2.
Against homestanding Apache Junction, Bunk led the scoring parade with 19 points. Point guard Miles Huff finished with 13, nine of which came on three-pointers. Addington tacked on 10.
The young Longhorns could attribute the victory to a second quarter outburst in which Payson outscored Apache Junction 20-11. In the second half, the Horns were outscored 24-18.
The freshmen return to the hardwood at 4 p.m. Dec. 10 in Prescott.