Lady Horns Take Third In Tourney

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A 4-2 finish in the Phoenix Christian Invitational was good enough to earn the Lady Longhorns third-place honors and a spot on the all-tournament team.

In the fray contested Dec. 1-3 on the PC campus, the Lady Longhorns whipped Baboquivari, 72-41, Pima, 63-47, Ray 77-33 and Phoenix Christian 46-43.

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The Lady Longhorn basketball team played its way to a third-place finish at the Phoenix Christian Invitational Tournament. Payson compiled a 4-2 record during the three days of the fray.

Payson's two losses were to Sandra Day O'Connor 49-40 and Willow Canyon 46-23.

In a voting of coaches at the conclusion of the hardwood showdown, junior Tori Wilbanks was chosen to the all tournament team.

In the opening game loss to Sandra Day O'Connor, Wilbanks proved she was going to be a force to reckon with, finishing with 11 points and a solid performance against an opposing front line that was tall and talented. "She showed the coaches she can play with the best of the post players around the state," coach Rory Huff said.

Senior sharpshooter Danielle O'Haver also shined against O'Connor with a team high 13 points that included nine of 12 shooting from the free throw line.

Horn hopes for a win over O'Connor absorbed a blow when senior Kendra Francis went down with a knee injury.

Francis, who sat out all last season recovering from surgery in which a cadaver ligament was used to replace a damaged one, was recovering nicely until the set back.

Francis' availability won't be known until an MRI is done on the knee Dec. 8.

The Lady Horns might have found a replacement for Francis in the lopsided win over Baboquivari. In the Horns' second clash of the tournament, freshman Kayla O'Donnell took advantage of her new-found varsity playing time, finishing with 13 points.

"She stepped up and showed the coaching staff she can play at the varsity level," Huff said.

Wilbanks also turned in one of her strongest tournament performances, with a team high 21 points.

In the Lady Horns' third round win over Pima, Wilbanks and O'Donnell were again at their best, finishing with 19 and 14 points respectively.

O'Haver contributed by sinking four three-point bombs.

"That really opened the game up," Huff said.

The game-four win over Ray yielded even more evidence O'Donnell is set to make a splash on the varsity scene.

After watching the rookie pile up a team-high 17 points, Huff said, "She played well at both ends of the court. She is more than ready."

Wilbanks tallied 12 points and O'Haver had 10, but it might have been the Lady Horn defense that was the catalyst to the win.

"We came out with an intensity that completely snuffed the Bearcats offense," Huff said.

WC height wears down Horns

Entering game five of the tournament and sporting a 3-1 record, the Lady Horns found themselves pitted against a Willow Canyon team that featured a pair of 6-foot, 4-inch low post players.

"The old adage, ‘You cannot teach height' was the story of this game," Huff said. "We could not contain them. Willow was the only game of the tournament in which we were outmanned."

The best Wilbanks could do against WC's twin towers was three points. O'Haver led all Payson scorers with just eight points.

Only 15 minutes after the loss to Willow, an exhausted Lady Horns crew returned to the court to take on host PC in a battle for third place.

After building a 10-point lead in the first half, Payson wilted in the latter going.

"That was our third game of the day," Huff said. "We were tired."

The Lady Horns were able to hold on for the narrow victory, thanks to 14 points from freshman Cydney Figueroa and 11 from Wilbanks.

Payson (6-3 overall) returns to the hardwood at 7 p.m. Dec. 6 in Globe.

The clash will be preceded by a 5:30 p.m. junior varsity game.

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