The Lady Longhorns will be hard-pressed to win their first-ever Holiday Hoops Basketball Tournament championship Dec. 28 and 29.
What makes that elusive goal tough is the presence of some of Arizona's finest girls teams.
Among the top squads entered is defending Holiday Hoops champion Tuba City, Class 4A No. 2 ranked Flagstaff Sinagua and tournament newcomer Kingman.
Several other teams, including Page, Mesa, Tempe McClintock, Mesa Westood and Fountain Hills, could contend for tournament honors.
"This is the most competitive 16-team holiday tournament there is in the state," Lady Horn coach Rory Huff said. "We have all the good (class) 3A, 4A and 5A teams".
The Lady Horns enter the tournament as last year's runner-up and a squad that has the veteran leadership to pull off a few upsets. Haylee Huff, Tanya Davis, Krystal McRae, Autumn Herrera and Danielle O'Haver are among the team leaders who have Holiday Hoops experience.
The Lady Horns also will be buoyed by the experience of participating Dec. 2 to 4 in the River Valley Invitational near Laughlin, Nev. There, Payson lost only to a traveling Australian all-star team.
With veterans and tournament experience on their side, the Lady Horns spring into Holiday Hoops action at 10 a.m. Dec. 28 against Scottsdale Arcadia.
Over the course of two days, tournament games will be played in both Wilson Dome and the old high school gymnasium. The tournament championship is at 8 p.m. Dec. 29 in the dome.
In addition to featuring more than 30 basketball games, Holiday Hoops will be highlighted by individual three-point shoot-outs held during halftime.
The Payson representative in the long-range shoot will be decided this week in a practice contest. Whoever is chosen is slated to shoot during halftime of the Payson vs. Arcadia opener.
The top four three-point scorers will advance to the championship round during halftime of a game at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 29 in Wilson Dome.
In the shoot-out, each contestant will be awarded a total of 25 shots from beyond the 19-foot, 9-inch arc. Five attempts will be shot from five different locations beginning at the baseline and continuing 180 degrees to the opposite baseline.
In addition to being a topnotch tournament, Holiday Hoops is one of the Lady Horns best fund-raisers.
From concessions and admission charges, which is $4 for adults and $3 for students, the team traditionally earns about $2,500.
The money is used to defray team costs that are not covered by the school athletic budget.
Huff invites all fans to support the Lady Longhorns as they represent the school and community. He promises that the team's break-neck style of offense and in-your-face defense will be exciting.