At the beginning of the basketball season, the Longhorn freshmen boys predicted that a Jan. 20 game at Mingus would probably prove to be the highlight of the year.
Eyeing the schedule, the rookies recalled the events of last spring when they were members of the Rim Country Middle School eighth-grade team. In a tournament championship finale in Cottonwood, it was Mingus that wrestled the title away from the Mavericks.
Since that stunning defeat, the freshmen have been gearing up for an anticipated rematch.
What made the Jan. 20 skirmish even more suspenseful was the fact the Longhorn freshmen were riding the crest of an 11-game winning streak when they charged on to the Mingus High floor.
That string remains intact.
A hard-fought 55-51 victory over the Marauders improved the freshmen's credentials to 12-0. With four games remaining on the schedule, including a Feb. 4 second meeting against Mingus, the PHS freshmen could be on the way to a perfect 16-0 season.
Official records of freshmen and jayvee results have not been kept, but longtime coaches and fans -- including former varsity boys coach Chuck Hardt who now coaches the freshmen -- cannot remember Payson having an undefeated basketball team.
"I can't remember ever being even 12-0," Hardt said.
In the victory over the Marauders, the Payson team jumped to an early 16-7 lead only to have Mingus pull within one at halftime (27-26).
In the second half, the Horns outscored the Marauders 28-26.
Alex Bunk led all scorers with 20 points, Hunter Hardt, the coach's son, finished with 13 points, 10 of which came in the first half.
In the battle on the boards, Bunk led the Longhorns with 10 rebounds. Miles Huff had seven retrieves and Hunter Hardt six. Bryson Addington contributed a nice all-around floor game with eight assists, one steal and three turnovers.
As a team, the freshmen shot 51 percent (22 for 38) from two-point range.
The freshmen will try to improve to 13-0 this evening against the Flagstaff Eagles. Game time is 4 p.m. in old PHS gym.