Coach Rory Huff's Lady Longhorns can be excused for keeping one eye focused on the upcoming Holiday Hoops while playing Apache Junction Dec. 15 in Wilson dome. (Results not available at press time).
The players' interest in the annual holiday skirmish is because the Lady Horns will enter the fray as defending champions scrambling for a repeat.
In 2004, the Lady Horns whipped Page 50-33 in the finale to end a 4-0 tournament run.
While Page will not return to the 2005 Holiday Hoops, set for Dec. 27 and 28, there will be plenty of other topnotch competition, including Gilbert, Kingman, Arcadia and Round Valley.
Also set to compete are several big schools from the Valley, including Mesa Westwood, Mesa, Notre Dame, Gilbert Skyline, Desert Mountain, Tempe McClintock and Higley.
In all, 16 teams are entered.
Page and Flagstaff Sinagua dropped out because as 4A Grand Canyon region schools they earn seeds to the state tournament in a power points system that awards points on strength of schedule.
"Playing 3A teams wouldn't do those two schools much good," Huff said.
If the Lady Horns show of strength in their last outing, Dec. 6 at Globe, is any indication, Payson will again battle for a Holiday Hoops title and a berth in postseason play.
In whipping the Lady Tigers, the Lady Horns jumped out to a 24-13 lead and then rode a rock-solid defense to victory.
Although Payson scored only seven points in the second half, its pressure defense held the Tigers to just 15.
"The game once again proves you can win with defense," Huff said. "The team is starting to know what it takes to win."
The coach cited guards Karina Haught and Danielle O'Haver for their hard-nosed contributions.
"They really stepped up the D to contain Globe's guard play," Huff said.
Offensively, freshman Kayla O'Donnell led all scorers with 11 points. Tori Wilbanks contributed 10.