The outcome of the Lady Horns' five final East region games will determine the team's hoop fate.
Payson's crucial stretch begins at 6 p.m. tonight (Jan. 24) in Snowflake and wraps up Feb. 7 in Wilson Dome against Show Low.
Should the Lady Horns hold their own in the late season, the team can look forward to an advantageous seed into the regional tournament Feb. 14 and 15. A top-four finish in the regional clash will propel the team into the state tournament set for Feb. 18 at Northern Arizona University. The tournament wraps up Feb. 22 at America West Arena.
As good as some past PHS teams have been, the Lady Horns have never reached the final four at the home of the Phoenix Suns.
As the team faces its final tests, it does so sporting a 12-9 overall mark and 4-1 East credentials.
The East record is good enough for second place in the standings behind league-leading Round Valley.
Individually, the team has been led in scoring all year by the one-two offensive punch of Ashli Herrera and Trista Carlton. Most of their points come down low where the two seniors, who both play the forward/center positions, are able to maneuver for close shots.
After 20 games, Herrera leads the team in scoring with a 13.4 ppg average. Carlton sports a 13.1 ppg mark.
Sophomore point guard Tanya Davis has contributed 6.5 ppg and Krystal McRae is averaging 5.8 ppg.
Carlton and Ashli Herrera have been the most accurate of the Lady Horn shooters with 47.2 and 45.6 shooting percentages from two-point range.
From the line, Ashli Herrera is hitting 66.7 percent of her free throws and Davis sports a 66 percent average. Both are team-high marks.
The highest scoring games this year were turned in by Carlton (33 points), Ashli Herrera (28) and Autumn Herrera (18).
If the Lady Horns have a weak spot, offensively, it is the team's inability to cash in on three-pointers consistently. The team has hit only 14 of the 59 three-point shot attempts taken. Of those made, Autumn Herrera and Haylee Huff have six each.
In the battle on the boards, Carlton leads Payson with an average of 9.9 rebounds per game. In most games, help on the glass is provided by Ashli Herrera (6.1).
The pickpocket award for defensive abilities also goes to Ashli Herrera who has 52 steals this season, combined with a team-leading 13 blocked shots.
The team's floor general has been Huff from her point guard position. With 84 assists, she is by far the team leader. Next in assists are Davis and Autumn Herrera with 32 each.
Although Carlton, Huff, Davis, McRae, Autumn Herrera and Ashli Herrera have drawn much of the playing time, coach Krystal Garvin has a steady trio of reserves capable of riding to the rescue at a moment's notice.
Among the key replacements are Kody Kepp (3.2 ppg, 2.4 rebounds), Britney Owens (1.6 ppg, 2.1 rebounds) and Laura Crabtree (2.2 ppg, 2.0 rebounds). Crabtree was sidelined five games in midseason with an ankle injury.
When Kepp is on the floor, the sophomore forward/center has shown an ability to clog up the lane. Her nine blocked shots rank her among the team leaders.
Hardwood skills that Garvin has worked with players to improve are ball handling and passing -- especially against the press. Round Valley's smothering press has been especially tough for the Lady Horns to deal with. To be successful down the line, the team will have to cut down on the 21-plus turnovers it has averaged each game this season.