The final two seconds of a non-region clash between the Payson Longhorns and Sedona Scorpions contained enough tense drama to last coach Chuck Hardt the remainder of the season.
In the game, contested Nov. 29 in Sedona, the Horns trailed 40-38 and the game clock was running down. As the ticker hit 1.6 seconds, Longhorn Brian Schwind was fouled.
"We had a chance to tie it," Hardt said.
Unfortunately the first free throw was off-target, which meant a successful second shot would only pull the Horns to within one.
Then, Sedona would have the ball out of bounds and the opportunity to run out the clock.
Knowing that, the Payson strategy was to intentionally miss the second free throw and hope for a rebound and "put back" that would tie up the score.
Unfortunately, the second free throw attempt was an "air ball." By rule, Sedona regained possession and then was able to run the final second off the clock.
The missed free throws in the final moments were only a part of a miserable showing the Longhorns turned in at the charity stripe.
"We were one for nine, 11 percent," Hardt said.
Although the Horns struggled at the line and were lax with their ball handling, committing 24 turnovers, Payson was always in contention.
"No lead by either team was more than six points," Hardt said.
The turning point in the skirmish might have occurred as early as the first quarter.
"I changed our game plan, this was a mistake, the kids became indecisive when attacking their half-court press," Hardt said.
The coach cited Miles Huff, Bryson Addington and Brian Schwind as outstanding players.
Schwind finished with 15 points and six rebounds; Huff had three rebounds, three steals and only one turnover.
Addington dished out eight assists but committed eight turnovers, statistics show.
On the under card, coach Kenny Hayes' junior varsity squad improved to 2-0 with a 65-30 victory over Sedona.
"Everyone played great defense -- that's what won it for us," Hayes said.
Freshman Cody York led the offense with 14 points. Levi Neal tallied 13 and Robert Walker had 12.
Next up for the Longhorns are back-to-back games against Globe and Fountain Hills.
Payson hosts Globe Dec. 6 in Wilson dome. Game times are 4 (freshmen), 5:30 (jayvee) and 7 p.m. (varsity).
Dec. 7, the Horns host Fountain Hills in old PHS gymnasium. Game times are 5:30 (jayvee) and 7 p.m. (varsity). There is no freshman game.