In her first year at the helm of the Lady Longhorn basketball program, Krystal Garvin has earned East region "Coach of the Year" honors.
In a voting of coaches in Eagar/Springerville at the conclusion of the season, Garvin unanimously received the citation over Round Valley High School veteran coach Chris Matthews whose team won both the East and 3A state championship.
"I was nominated by the Blue Ridge and Snowflake coaches and then voted in," Garvin said.
Under Garvin, the Lady Horns finished as the East region runner-up. After falling to the third seed in the postseason region tournament, the team advanced to state against South second-seeded Globe.
A 54-44 victory over the favored Tigers propelled the Lady Horns into a second-round game against Monument Valley.
Although the Lady Horns turned in a commendable effort, the team came out on the short end of an 81-65 score.
Payson's 17-13 record (7-3 in the East) was a much better showing than most onlookers anticipated at the beginning of the season.
"The coaches told me I was named (coach of the year) because almost everyone thought Payson would be way down this year," she said. "We had lost our point guard (Whitney Hardt), coach (Shaun Hardt) and leading scorer (Brandi Waugh)," Garvin said.
The Hardt family moved to Eagar/Springerville last summer; Waugh graduated with the Class of 2002.
"We had a very young squad and a new coach, nobody expected much from us," Garvin said. "We were being overlooked."
Under Garvin's leadership, seniors Ashli Herrera and Trista Carlton rounded into top-notch players. The pair went on to win All-East region honors. Although senior Laura Crabtree was injured early in the season, she returned to the lineup to provide, what Garvin calls "a positive personality and much-needed balance."
The Lady Longhorns also received valuable contributions from five talented sophomores. At least four of those were seeing their first varsity action.
Fueled by the three veterans and the underclassmen, the once-unheralded team became a force in the East region title chase.
Early season highlights for the new coach included a third-place finish in the Payson Invitational and an upset home victory over Snowflake.
As the campaign wore on, Garvin had molded her largely untested players into a solid team capable of playing on even terms with the 3A conference's best.
For Garvin, the announcement she was the Coach of the Year came as a surprise, especially in light of what Matthews accomplished at Round Valley.
Garvin says the honor is a tribute to the athletes on her team who refused to be swayed by the soothsayers' early season bashings.
In addition to earning the coaching honor, Garvin was asked to coach a team in the annual Arizona Coaches Association North vs. South All-Star game.
She turned down the invitation saying she wanted to remain in Payson to lay the groundwork for an off-season program that will help the Lady Horns be successful when PHS moves next season from the 3A to 4A conference.
"We have a strong group coming back, I need to be here to work with them," she said.