The homestanding Payson High School basketball teams split a pair of East region games Tuesday evening against the Round Valley Elks.
The Longhorns jumped out to an early 18-7 lead and then coasted to a relatively easy 72-44 triumph.
Senior forward Jake Swartwood might have turned in the best game of his varsity career finishing with a team-high 14 points and nine rebounds. Most of the evening, his energy --nd ability to stay out of foul trouble -- kept the Longhorn express on track and steaming toward victory,
Coach Mike Loutzenheiser also praised Nate Perna for his hustle and court awareness.
"He really worked hard on the boards and played a great game," the coach said.
Perna finished with eight points.
Junior center Mike Barr contributed 11 points and corralled a team-high 10 rebounds. Waylon Pettet tallied 10 and Nick Cassuto had nine.
The victory, which improved the team's overall record to 14-6 and the East slate to 6-1, keeps the Horns unbeaten this season in Wilson Dome and tied for the region lead with Snowflake.
If the Horns win their remaining three games (Jan. 31 vs. Alchesay, Feb. 4 vs. Blue Ridge and Feb. 7 vs Show Low), the team is guaranteed at least a tie for the East title.
The Lady Horns
The Lady Longhorns had a much tougher time than their male counterparts, losing 61-42 to the high-powered Elks, which now stands 20-1 overall and 7-0 in the region.
The Lady Horn's triangle and two defense kept Round Valley's two scoring aces, Whitney Hardt and Ashton LeSueur in check much of the evening.
Payson trailed only 31-27 at half-time and the Lady Horns were in position to make a run at the talented Elks. But a third quarter scoring drought in which Payson was outscored 16-2 put an end to any hopes the Lady Horns had of ambushing RV. Cassandra Ping burned Payson for 19 points. Ashli Herrera led the Lady Horn scoring with 11 points.
Although Payson (4-3 in the region) is out of the running for the East championship, the team could guarantee itself a second-place region finish and a berth in the state tournament by winning its three remaining games -- vs. Alchesay (Jan. 31), vs. Blue Ridge (Feb. 4) and vs. Show Low (Feb. 7).