A Scottsdale Christian Academy basketball program that rolled over the Payson High School boys team was no match for the Lady Longhorns.
The Horns of coach Chuck Hardt dropped a 63-41 decision Nov. 22 to two-time defending 2A state champion SC. Less than a week later in Wilson dome, the Lady Horns pounded an outmatched SC squad 58-30.
"It was a total team effort," Lady Horn coach Rory Huff said. "The game was over in the first quarter."
The coach was able to utter that assessment mostly because the Lady Horns built a 13-3 lead in the opening stanza. At halftime, Payson led 38-7.
During second half play, Huff substituted liberally from his bench.
Using reserves, however, didn't hurt the Horn cause.
"The younger players really stepped up," Huff said.
Among those newcomers to excel was freshman Christina Deaton.
Playing in only the second varsity game of her career, she led the Lady Horns in scoring with 15 points.
As good offensively as the varsity newcomers were, it might have been the Lady Horns' suffocating man-to-man, full-court pressure defense that paved the road to victory.
"The team intensity on defense was as good as any coach could ask for," Huff said. "We never let them get into their game."
The outstanding display of hard-nosed "D" prompted the coach to predict good things for his squad.
"If they continue to play defense with this intensity, they will win a lot of games," Huff said. "They came together as a unit."
Individually, the coach lauded Tori Wilbanks and Danielle O'Haver for their efforts in the win.
"Tori was a sparkplug at both ends of the floor, with great hustle and leadership," he said. "Danielle ran the offense and shut down their best shooter."
On the junior varsity front, coach Carol Hayes' squad remained unbeaten with a pulsating, come-from-behind 31-29 win over SC. After falling behind 20-15 at halftime, the Lady Horns rode eight points from Kayla O'Donnell and six from Shawna Davis to the victory.
As big as their points were, it was Lana Cluff's three-pointer in the final seconds of the third quarter that turned the tide in Payson's favor.
Cluff finished with five points.
Hayes also credited the Horns' 2-3 zone defense for the win, saying it "stopped their inside game and allowed us to rebound very well."
The coach also lauded her players for a great effort, but admitted, "We have lots to work on."
The varsity returned to action Dec. 1, 2 and 3 in the Phoenix Christian Invitational Tournament.
Payson opened pursuit of tournament honors at 3 p.m. Dec. 1 against Sandra Day O'Connor. (Results not available at press time).
The Lady Horns also played Dec. 2 at 10:30 a.m. against Baboquivari and 4:30 p.m. versus Pima.
The results of those games will be used to seed the Lady Horns into a championship consolation tournament Dec. 3.
The fray will provide Huff a good opportunity to evaluate his players in nonregion games over the course of several days.
As valuable as the PC shootout is in helping the players pick up valuable experience, the highlight of the early season will occur Dec. 27 and 28 during the PHS Holiday Hoops tournament in Wilson dome.
The Lady Horns enter the tournament as the defending champions, having beaten the Page Sand Devils 50-33 in the 2004 finale.