As the girls high school basketball season wears on, the Lady Longhorns and Snowflake Lobos might find themselves chasing East region favorite Round Valley Elks.
That nuance of hardwood life makes tonight's (Friday) East region opener pitting Payson against Snowflake even more important.
Tip-off is at 6 p.m. in Wilson Dome.
Both teams desperately need a win to get off on the right sneaker in the chase to keep up with the highly talented Lady Elks.
A victory is particularly crucial for Payson because it is a home game. A longtime rule in the basketball East is that if a team is to claim a championship, it must win all its home games and muster a handful of "breakthrough" victories on the rugged road circuit where wins are tougher to come by.
Tonight's battle could be weakened by an ankle injury suffered by senior guard Laura Crabtree. She suffered the injury Jan. 4 in a 54-52 loss to defending state champion Tuba City. In the game, Crabtree was given the starting nod and scored two points before going down with the twisted ankle. At midweek, her ankle was swollen and being treated. Her return date is uncertain.
Without Crabtree, the Lady Horns' roster has been reduced to a scant seven players. Although a team can sometimes manage to wade through a game with only seven, the low numbers do make practice sessions, especially scrimmaging, tough to conduct.
Lady Dogs take bite out of Payson girls
There are nights when it's best to not show up. That was the situation the Lady Longhorns found themselves in Tuesday night in Winslow High School gymnasium. There, the Lady Dogs humbled the Payson team 84-40.
After falling behind 13-9 in the first quarter and 40-17 at halftime, the Lady Horns were never in contention.
A thorn in the Lady Horns' side all night was Winslow sharpshooter Nicole Begay who finished with a game-high 22 points. Her offensive barrage included six three-pointers.
With the loss the Lady Horns fall to 8-7 on the season.
Although Payson didn't show well in Winslow, the Lady Horns did push the Tuba City squad -- considered the equal of Winslow -- to the final buzzer.
On Jan. 4 in Wilson Dome, the Lady Horns led most of the nonregion game before falling late 54-52.
Defensively, the Lady Horns turned in a solid showing by shutting out Tuba City from beyond the three-point arc. Tuba City's advantage came from the free-throw line, where the Warriors outscored Payson 12-4.
Ashli Herrera took team scoring honors with 15 points. Haylee Huff finished with 12 and Tanya Davis had eight.