The regular season has wrapped up, the regional tournament is history and the Lady Longhorns are primed for a run at the Class 3A state tournament.
Payson, the East's No. 3 seed, tips-off the season-ending tournament at 4:30 p.m. today (Tuesday) at Flagstaff Coconino High School. The Lady Longhorns opponent, Globe, advanced to state as the South region's No. 2 finisher.
Globe and Payson met one another in the Payson Holiday Hoops tournament in December. After falling behind by 18 points, the Lady Longhorns rallied in the fourth quarter to salvage a 66-62 victory.
In that PHS win, Globe showcased a standout player who spearheaded the Tiger offense with 31 points.
At Monday evening's practice, coach Krystal Garvin schemed several defenses designed to keep the Tiger star at bay.
"To win, we'll need to stop her," Garvin said.
The Lady Longhorns wrapped up the regular season as the East runner-up behind champion Round Valley. After receiving a first-round bye into the regional tournament in Eagar/ Springerville, the Lady Horns opened with a 54-49 loss to the Snowflake Lobos.
That defeat dropped Payson into a final round game against the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets.
With a third-place tournament finish and state seed at stake, the Lady Horns rallied in the final 46 seconds for a 47-45 victory.
Trailing 45-39 late in the game and with Payson hopes for a victory all but at an end, Garvin called for a time out.
During the TO, the coach called for an aggressive man-to-man defense in which the players were to take away the Jackets passing lanes.
The pressure defense quickly paid dividends as the Blue Ridge folded under the harassment.
Following one Blue Ridge turnover, Ashli Herrera cashed in on a three-pointer. A subsequent Jacket miscue was followed up by a two-point basket from Herrera.
The aggressive defense that allowed Payson to come from behind was fueled by sophomore point guard Haylee Huff.
"She was the key to getting them rattled," Garvin said.
After Payson assumed the two-point lead and regained possession of the ball, Blue Ridge mysteriously allowed the final few seconds to tick off the game clock.
"They didn't intentionally foul or press us," Garvin said. "I don't know why."
In the PHS triumph, Krystal McRae, Trista Carlton and Huff led all scorers with nine points each.