After suffering three consecutive Grand Canyon regional losses to Page, 44-24, Coconino, 51-40, and Chinle, 62-58, the Longhorn basketball team is struggling to stay on track.
If the Horns are to earn an advantageous seed into the regional tournament Feb. 10 in Flagstaff, the team will need to rally in the second half of the season.
That opportunity begins at 7 p.m. today (Tuesday) at Flagstaff Sinagua. A win over the homestanding Eagles would be just the antidote the team needs to cure their ills.
The Longhorns blew a golden opportunity to nail down a regional win in the Jan. 9 loss to Chinle. After building a 31-28 halftime lead and expanding it to 49-43 early in the fourth quarter, the Horns were outscored 25-13 in the final eight minutes.
During the final three minutes, the Horns committed three turnovers which Chinle converted into field goals. The miscues erased Payson's precarious 56-53 lead.
The vocal crowd of Chinle fans who journeyed to Wilson Dome to take in the game might have played a role in the outcome.
"Our kids are young and they've never played in that atmosphere before," Loutzenheiser said. "It was so loud, it was like a home game for Chinle."
A lone bright spot in the loss was the play of senior center Mike Barr who finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds.
Andy Sargent and Kyle Hubbard finished with 11 points each. Donnie Wilbanks contributed eight and Wellington Cassuto had seven.
In the Jan, 6 loss to Coconino in the dome, the Horns once again faltered in the late going. Trailing only 32-28 at the start of the fourth quarter, Payson was outscored 19-12 in the last stanza. The telltale stat in the quarter could be found at the free throw line. Coconino hit 10 of 18 free throws; Payson was 3-4.
Jayvees take two
In junior varsity action, coach Donnie Garvin's charges picked up a pair of wins defeating Chinle 48-43 and Coconino 47-43.
Against Chinle, Brandon Buckner led all scorers with 11 points. Brian Schwind contributed 10. Jake Winans and Buckner paced Payson to the win over Coconino with 11 points each.