With only two games remaining on the Lady Longhorns regular season schedule, first-year coach Rory Huff is prepping his players for postseason play set to begin Feb. 10 and 11.
The opening round of the Grand Canyon regional tournament will be held at the home site of the highest seed. If the Lady Horns can cling to fourth place, which they now hold, Payson would host a first-round game against the No. 5 finisher.
After the first round, all regional tournament games will be played in Flagstaff.
For the Horns to advance to the regional tournament with an advantageous home seed, the team needs to take care of hardwood business today (Tuesday vs Sinagua) and tomorrow (Wednesday vs. Mingus) in Wilson Dome. Tip-off time for both is 5:30 p.m.
Although nothing is a given in high school girls basketball, a victory over Mingus would seem almost certain. When the two teams last clashed Jan. 20 in Mingus, the Lady Horns ran roughshod over the Marauders 59-31.
A win over state seventh-ranked Sinagua appears to be a much tougher challenge for the Payson hardwood crew.
In the Horns' win over Mingus, the three-pronged attack of Britney Owens, Krystal McRae and Danielle O'Haver did most of the damage.
Owens finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds, one assist and a steal. McRae contributed 11 points, nine rebounds and two steals.
O'Haver, Payson's long-range shooting threat, scored nine points all of which came from beyond the 19-foot, 9-inch arc.
One of the Lady Horns' most important regional victories might have been recorded Jan. 30 in Chinle. The 44-29 drubbing of Chinle might have been the win the Lady Horns needed to retain the home court advantage in the opening round of the regional tournament.
With powerhouses Page, Sinagua and Flagstaff -- all of which are state ranked --lmost assured of the top-three finishes in the region, Payson and Chinle were battling for fourth-place honors.
Whipping Chinle on its home court is no easy task for a visiting team. The reservation school traditionally attracts a huge crowd of vocal supporters who make it doubly tough on impressionable high school players.
Relying on the inside game of Kody Kepp and guard play of Haylee Huff, the Lady Horns were able to overcome Chinle's home cookin'.
Kepp finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots. Huff scored 11 points, dished out three assists and had two steals.
Autumn Herrera also turned in a commendable all-around effort with six points, six rebounds, two assists and four steals.
If the Lady Horns have had a disappointing effort this season, it was the 57-32 loss Jan. 27 to Flagstaff.
In front of a Payson home crowd, the Eagles showed why they are state-ninth ranked.
About the only Payson players to find some success against the Flagstaff defense were O'Haver and McRae. By hitting three of her six three-point shot attempts, O'Haver finished with nine points. McRae also scored nine points. Tanya Davis and Herrera tallied four each.
If the Lady Horns can battle through the upcoming regional tournament and earn a state berth, the 4A showdown begins Feb. 16 in Flagstaff.