All of the marbles will be at stake tonight in Wilson Dome when longtime East region rival Snowflake challenges the Longhorns in an East region opener set to tip-off at 7:30 p.m.
Although the clash is only one game in what will be a month-long East hardwood campaign, the results of the showdown could set the stage for the remainder of the season.
Both squads are projected to have the talent to win the East championship. Tonight, the two teams will have the opportunity to show that they are as good as anticipated.
The winners get a 1-0 start in the standings and the losers will find themselves later this season struggling to atone for the defeat.
Also at stake is bragging rights.
PHS coach Mike Loutzenheiser, a Longhorn football and basketball standout in the late 1980s, is all too aware of the rivalry that exists between Snowflake and Payson.
Years ago while coaching an eighth-grade Rim Country Middle School football team to a win over the Lobos, he was overheard saying, "a win over Snowflake in any sport, on any level, is sweet."
Horns tame Bulldogs
Hitting on all cylinders like a well-oiled engine, the Longhorns sped past the Winslow Bulldogs 61-44 Tuesday night on the road.
"We played a great game," Loutzenheiser said. "I have confidence to put any of my 10 kids into the game."
The coach's enthusiasm was bolstered by an offense that churned out double-figure scoring in all quarters including 22 in the fourth.
Senior swingman Nick Cassuto led the scoring parade with 13 points. Kyle Hubbard tallied 13.
Nate Perna (9), Cort Connolly (6), Chris Donaldson (5), Mike Barr (4), Jake Swartwood (4), Nate Acord (3) and Derek Daniels (2) also contributed.
With nine of the 10 players on the roster breaking into the scoring column, Loutzenheiser said the win was a total team effort.
The Horns' man-to-man defense also worked to perfection. Winslow got only eight points in the first quarter and five in the second.
"We are a very physical team and I like that," Loutzenheiser said.
Although Payson played a rugged inside game, the Horns were ticketed for 17 fouls which is not an overly excessive amount for an early season prep game. Winslow picked up 13 fouls.
Tuba sounds sour note
It's not an everyday occurrence that a Payson High School boys basketball team knocks off a state top-5 ranked team. But, that's exactly what happened Jan. 5 in Wilson Dome, when the Longhorns beat the Tuba City Warriors, 58-53.
Although the win was a definite high for Payson fans, the low point of the evening was the ejecting of a Tuba City player for throwing a punch.
Arizona Interscholastic Association rules dictate that a player's ejection will result in that athlete also sitting out the team's next game.
In the Payson victory, the Longhorn offense turned in a well-rounded effort that has proven to be the key to most of the team's wins this season. Of the 10 players on the roster, eight broke into the scoring column.
The team's leading scorer, Nick Cassuto, was once again the top gun with 10 points. Jake Swartwood and Nate Perna finished with nine each. Kyle Hubbard and Mike Barr contributed eight each.
Rounding out the scoring were Chris Donaldson (6), Nate Acord (5) and Nate Perna (3).