Lady Longhorn hopes for a berth in the Class 4A state tournament hinge on winning one of two Grand Canyon Region tournament games.
In the first clash, played at 4:15 p.m. yesterday (Thursday) in Walkup Skydome on the campus of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, the Lady Horns took on GCR regular season runner-up Page (results not available at press time).
A victory over the Sand Devils would assure Payson of at least a No. 2 seed to state when the tournament begins Feb.15.
If the Lady Horns lose to Page, the team would then play the losers of an opening round clash pitting Sinagua against Flagstaff. A Payson win would send the Lady Horns to state with a three-seed. If Payson loses two in Flagstaff, their state tournament hopes would be whisked away.
Each region in the 4A conference sends just three teams to state.
Of course, a pair of "Ws" in the GCR tournament would earn Payson a one-seed to the state tournament.
The Lady Horns, who tied with Flagstaff for third place in the GCR regular season, earned the right to advance in the post season with a 67-55 victory over Chinle Feb. 9 in Wilson Dome. Krystal McRae's 17 points, and 14 from point guard Haylee Huff, fueled the Lady Horn victory. Tracy Fitzpatrick, battling down low for most of her points, tallied 12.
The game took an ugly turn in the second quarter when a Chinle player fell and struck her head on the floor while struggling for a loose ball.
She was treated at the scene by school medical staff and the Payson Fire Department before being transported to Payson Regional Medical Center.
She was later released to return to Chinle on the team bus.
"We are glad she was okay," an obviously concerned Lady Longhorn coach Rory Huff said.
In preparing for the GCR tournament showdown against Page, the Lady Horns must defeat a team that holds a 2-1 edge over them in regular season play.
Payson beat Page in the championship of the Holiday Hoops tournament, but lost a GCR regular season clash in Wilson dome.
In the rubber match, Feb. 5 in Page, the Sand Devils defeated Payson 44-30.
Coach Huff's focus has been to find a way to contain Page's leading scorer, Natasha Begay, who is averaging more than 20 points per game.
Offensively, coach Huff has also installed several new wrinkles he hopes will keep Page's defense guessing.