Sporting a 3-1 East record (11-9 overall) that is good enough for second place in the region, the Lady Longhorns return to the hardwood at 6 p.m. this evening in Show Low against the homestanding Cougars.
A victory over the cats would keep the Lady Horns hot on the hooves of the region-leading Round Valley Elks who are bugling along with a sterling 17-1 record (4-0 in the East).
After dropping a 71-47 encounter to the Elks Jan. 14 in Eagar, first-year coach Krystal Garvin predicted the Lady Horns could be much more competitive against Round Valley, if her players can learn to handle the Elks' daunting press.
The two teams meet again Jan. 28 in Wilson Dome.
At Monday morning's practice session, while classes were in recess for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Garvin schooled her troops in the nuances of breaking several types of defensive pressures.
Following the disheartening loss to the Elks, the Lady Horns rebounded two days later to whip Blue Ridge in Wilson Dome 71-52.
Jan. 17 in Whiteriver, the Lady Horns continued to show improvement thumping Alchesay 72-48.
Although many of Payson's points come off team-defense and scoring on turnovers, Garvin says the players are learning the offense and how to run it against various zone and man-to-man defenses.
Proof of that expertise popped up in the win over Alchesay when three players recorded double-doubles. The prep basketball rarity was chalked up by Autumn Herrera (12 points, 10 rebounds), Trista Carlton (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Kody Kepp (13 points, 10 rebounds).
With 18 points and nine rebounds, Ashli Herrera almost gave the Lady Horns a fourth player with double-doubles.
Payson might have turned in its best two offensive quarters of the season in the victory over the Falcons.
In the second stanza, the Lady Horns -- led by two three-pointers from Autumn Herrera -- posted 21 points. Third quarter action saw Payson continue the onslaught with 22 points.
Back-to-back 20-point-plus quarters have been a rarity for the Lady Horns this season.
In beating Blue Ridge, the Lady Horns received 18 points from Carlton, 15 from Krystal McRae and 14 from Ashli Herrera. With 11 points, Haylee Huff also finished in double digits.
In winning, the Lady Longhorns had to survive a 30-point barrage from Blue Ridge's Holly Brock.