In the Lady Longhorns final tune-up before the Holiday Hoops tournament tips off Dec. 29, the Payson squad (8-3) fell 57-51 to the homestanding Apache Junction Prospectors.
Following the disheartening loss Dec. 19, first-year coach Rory Huff bemoaned the team's poor free-throw shooting as a reason for the defeat.
"We shot 7-for-17 from the line," he said.
The coach also lauded the Lady Prospectors for their yeoman-like efforts.
"They hustled very well on D and out-rebounded us," he said.
The Lady Horns, who controlled the tempo most of the first half, were able to build a 26-22 halftime lead. But in the third quarter, Apache Junction regrouped to take a 42-37 lead into the final eight minutes of play. The two teams battled on relatively even terms in the final going but Payson was never able to overcome the lead the Prospectors had assumed in the third quarter.
Kody Kepp led the Lady Horns in scoring with 10 points. Point guard Haylee Huff finished with 10 and Autumn Herrera tallied 8. Krystal McRae (7), Danielle O'Haver (6), Kendra Francis (3) and Britney Owens (3) also scored.
In junior varsity action, the Lady Horns survived a 41-36 thriller.
After falling behind 12-2 in the first quarter, the Lady Horns came roaring back to tie the game at 20 at halftime. Late in the clash, the jayvees relied on outstanding defense and good free-throw shooting to eventually escape with the win.
The clutch free throws, coach Carol Hayes said, were tallied by Hillary Armenta, Brianna Quinlan and Molly Agnes.
"Those were crucial," she said. "They sealed the win."
Quinlan, the daughter of former Longhorn boys coach Jim Quinlan, led the jayvees in scoring with 14 points. Freshman Tamara Crabdree contributed 7. Lacy Myers and Agnes tallied 6 each.
In freshman action, the undefeated PHS rookies ran past Apache Junction 51-33. The win represented the first time this season that the fledgling Lady Longhorns have been able to enjoy a victory by a comfortable margin.
"We finally widened the score instead of having a nail-biter," coach Cheryl Chance said.
Tori Wilbanks tallied 15 points to lead the freshman offense. Point guard Caitlin Fruth scored 11. The coach also cited Patti Goble for her defensive contributions.
The varsity team returns to the Wilson Dome hardwood at 10 a.m. Dec. 29 against Fountain Hills. The game will be one of two in the opening round of the Holiday Hoops tournament. The other, also at 10 a.m., will pit Sinagua against Arcadia in the old PHS gym.
The tournament wraps up Dec. 30.