The Longhorn boys basketball team's 3-2 showing in the Bradshaw Mountain Invitational Tournament set the slate for the new year and the upcoming 4A Grand Canyon region season.
The 16-team tournament Dec. 29 to 31 near Prescott allowed coach Mike Loutzenheiser a final opportunity to evaluate his players and settle on a starting lineup before the onset of a stretch run in which the team plays 12 consecutive Grand Canyon games.
"We needed the tournament time to answer questions about our team," he said following the Longhorns (6-8) return to Payson.
Payson opened the fray in convincing fashion whipping Sandra Day O'Connor 65-45. But the wheels came off the Longhorn bus during a 65-30 second round loss to Class 3A No. 1 ranked Chandler Seton.
The third round saw Payson continue to spin its wheels in a 43-31 loss to Yuma.
The Longhorns rebounded from the back-to-back defeats to beat Chino Valley 62-59 in overtime and edge Casa Grande 50-48.
In the 20-point dismantling of Sandra Day O'Connor, the Horns jumped to an early 20-7 lead.
Although Mike Barr played sparingly in the fourth quarter when Loutzenheiser emptied his bench, the 6-foot, 7-inch, 230-pound senior bullied his way inside for a game-high 23 points. Kyle Hubbard was only other Payson player to reach double figures with 10.
Donnie Wilbanks and Andy Sargent tallied eight each.
In losing to Chandler Seton, the Horns could never solve the pressing, trapping defense of the Sentinels.
"They did some things to us we had never seen before," Loutzenheiser said. "It was just one of those games when nothing went right."
Seton led 24-6 early and expanded it to 41-18 at halftime. Barr, Payson's leading scorer, was held to 10 points. In the second half, he tallied just two free throws.
The loss to Yuma was another example of the Payson team being unable to get untracked offensively or defensively.
After falling behind 24-12 at halftime and 36-24 early in the fourth quarter, Payson stumbled through a final eight minutes in which it scored just six points.
As is most often the situation in Longhorn losses, the only Payson player to score in double figures was Barr (15).
The remainder of the Longhorns' lineup combined for 16 points.
In the overtime win over Chino Valley, the Longhorns rallied back from a 42-32 deficit to tie the game at 52 on the final shot of regulation.
During the Horns' late rally, Payson outscored Chino Valley 20-10.
In overtime, the Horns rode a pair of three-pointers from Hubbard and Barr to the come-from-behind triumph.
In addition to Barr's extra-period long-range bomb, he made good on a pair of clutch free throws. With 22 points, he took game scoring honors.
Hubbard finished with 18 points.
Wellington Cassuto had one of his better offensive outings of the season with eight points.
Fueled by the energy of the win over Chino Valley, the Horns wrapped up their tournament stay with the two-point triumph over Casa Grande.
After falling behind early, the Horns used 23 points from Barr to nip Casa Grande at the final buzzer. Hubbard's two three-pointers in the fourth quarter helped keep Casa Grande at bay.
The Longhorns return to action at 7 p.m. today (Tuesday) in Wilson Dome against Coconino. The game will be preceded by freshmen (4 p.m.) and junior varsity (5:30 p.m.) games.