In only his second year at the helm of a varsity program, Payson High boys basketball coach Mike Loutzenheiser enjoyed the thrill of an athletic career.
That occurred last winter, when Loutzenheiser was named the head coach of the North team in the annual Arizona Coaches Association 1A-3A All-Star basketball game, June 6 at Casa Grande High School.
"It was awesome, we had a great time," Loutzenheiser said.
Although his North team lost 97-92 to the South stars, the Payson High coach was elated with the squad's showing.
"I think we put on the best show of the all-star games," he said. "The game was close at the end and both teams played hard."
Former Payson hardwood star Nick Cassuto was on the North team with Loutzenheiser.
"He did a nice job for us," Loutzenheiser said. In a starting role, Cassuto finished with 11 points, six rebounds and four steals.
A longtime Payson nemesis -- Porter Caldwell of Snowflake -- paced the North team effort with 23 points that included six three-pointers.
"People are used to seeing him light us up. This time he was on our side," Loutzenheiser said.
In the final 17 seconds of the game and the North trailing 95-92, Caldwell took what would have been a game-tying shot.
"He has so much confidence, he took it from almost 30 feet," Loutzenheiser said. "But, it hit the back of the iron and bounced out."
Another longtime Payson foe, Tuba City's Devin Dugi, also played on the North team.
In the second round of the state tournament in February, Dugi almost single-handedly dismantled the Longhorns finishing with 27 points. His contributions helped Tuba City to a win that eliminated Payson from postseason competition.
Also from the 3A conference on the North all-star squad was North region player of the year, Kyle Phillips of Monument Valley.
"He's a very good player," Loutzenheiser said.
Although the North team featured ample talent, it was without a true low-post player.
Originally, Valley Christian's 6-foot, 9-inch Tim Kruge was to be a member of the team. After undergoing foot surgery one week before the all-star game was to be played, Kruge was forced out of the contest.
"That hurt us not having a big man," Loutzenheiser said.
With the all-star games at an end, the Payson coach has turned his attention to the annual summer basketball tournament that will be played today (Friday) and tomorrow in Wilson Dome.
Tucson Amphitheater, Mesa Mountain View, Page, Skyline, Fountain Hills, Show Low, Queen Creek, Shadow Mountain, Caesar Chavez, Phoenix North, Chandler Seton and Payson are on hand to participate. There is no admission charge to the tournament.