Dazzling Rally Sparks Lady Horns

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A rally that will go down as one of the greatest comebacks in Payson High School basketball history lifted the Lady Longhorns to a 48-45 win over the Tempe McClintock Chargers.

In the rally -- which highlighted second round play in the winners' bracket of the Holiday Hoops tournament Dec. 27 in Wilson dome -- the Lady Horns trailed 18-5 at the end of the first quarter and 29-12 at halftime.

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Christina Deaton (23) looks for a shot off a rebound as Kayla O'Donnell (41) and Tess Belcher (44) watch the action.

Just when it looked as if Payson was bound for a spot in the tournament's consolation bracket, the Lady Horns staged the mother of all rallies.

"Our girls just stepped it up and McClintock was playing to not get beat," coach Rory Huff said.

The rally jump-started with the Lady Horns outscoring the Chargers 16-7 in the third quarter to pull within eight points.

In the fourth stanza, Payson continued its amazing comeback, outscoring the Chargers 20-9 to nail down the hard-earned, three-point victory.

Much of the credit for the win can be attributed to Huff's halftime decision to change the PHS offense so that it created more shot opportunities for his players.

The change freed up the Lady Horns' best outside shooter, senior Danielle O'Haver, who immediately hit back-to-back three pointers in the early moments of the third quarter.

"Danielle's shooting got us going," Huff said.

O'Haver finished as the game's leading scorer with 18 points.

"It was one of my best games hitting the (three pointers)," she said.

Freshman Kayla O'Donnell turned in a performance befitting the finest of senior veterans, scoring 16 points.

Junior forward/center Tori Wilbanks tallied six points and helped shore up the interior defense with a heady, but rugged, performance.

Higley thumped

In the tournament opener earlier in the day, the Lady Horns ran roughshod 54-26 over an outmanned Higley squad.

After building a 16-3 lead in the first quarter and expanding it to 31-10 at halftime, the Lady Horns rolled to the easy win as Huff emptied his bench allowing the entire roster, which included three freshmen and a sophomore, ample playing time.

Wilbanks led all scorers with 15 points and Christina Deaton, one of the talented trio of freshmen, finished with nine. O'Haver contributed nine points.

The Horns played without the services of senior Kendra Francis who has been sidelined the past week with a recurring knee injury.

Francis, who hopes to return to the lineup soon, sat out all last season rehabilitating the knee after undergoing extensive surgery.

"I want to be back playing in another week," she said.

The annual Holiday Hoops fray, which drew 16 Class 2A to 5A teams to Payson, suffered a plight of sorts when two coaches were ejected.

Mesa's Keri Schaufelberger and Tucson Catalina Magnet's Jim Lawwill were ejected by officials in opening-day play.

"That's something we don't like to see happen," Huff said.

The Payson coach also served as tournament director for the Holiday Hoops.

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