Holiday Hoops Unforgettable, Players Say

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For two of the three Lady Longhorns chosen to the Grand Canyon All-Region basketball team, winning the Holiday Hoops Invitational Tournament was the highlight of the season.

Haylee Huff and Krystal McRae, both seniors, agree that defeating region rival Page, 55-33, Dec. 29 in the championship round of the fray was a thrill they won't soon forget.

Tracy Fitzpatrick, a junior, says her greatest memory will be of playing varsity on a senior-dominated team.

"I liked playing alongside the other girls on the team," she said.

The three were chosen to the all-region team in a voting of coaches in Flagstaff at the conclusion of the Grand Canyon tournament.

All three played prominent roles in helping the Lady Horns string together an 18-9 record and remain in contention for a Class 4A state berth until being eliminated -- in the region tournament quarterfinals --y a 36-31 loss to Page.

Huff, the starting point guard and floor general, dished out 375 assists during her four-year varsity career. The mark easily shattered the previous record of 230 set by Ellie Teach in the mid-1980s.

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Lady Longhorn coach Rory Huff (right) attempts a basketball slight of hand trick with all-region players (l-r) Haylee Huff, Krystal McRae and Tracy Fitzpatrick.

During Huff's senior season, she was credited with 114 assists and averaged five points and 3.4 rebounds per game. At the conclusion of Holiday Hoops, coaches selected her the tournament's most valuable player.

In addition to her offense and ball handling, Huff also built a reputation as a solid defensive player.

Following her graduation in the spring, Huff plans to attend Grand Canyon College in Phoenix.

"I'd like to play basketball and major in nursing," she said.

Like Huff, McRae wants to pursue a career in nursing, but will enroll at Mesa Community College next fall. She hopes to continue her basketball career on the collegiate level.

One of McRae's finest outings might have been in the season-ending loss to Page when she was about the only offensive threat the team had in its arsenal. She led the team in scoring with 12 points, most of which came on power moves near the basket.

By pounding her way inside, McRae led the team in two-point field goal accuracy, sinking almost 50 percent of her shots. From the free throw line, she shot 59 percent to edge Autumn Herrera by a single percentage point for team honors.

McRae averaged 9.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.

Fitzpatrick was a force down low where elbows fly, bodies bang and sweat pours.

Playing the role of the yeoman, Fitzpatrick averaged 5.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.

Her field goal mark of 41 percent was third best on the team behind McRae and Britney Owens (41.7).

Fitzpatrick also was the team leader in rebounds with 168 retrieves.

The importance of Fitzpatrick in the lineup was never more evident than in the Grand Canyon regional tournament loss to Page when she was sidelined the entire second half by rib injuries. Without her on the floor, the Lady Horns' inside power game never got untracked.

With another season of high school basketball to play, Fitzpatrick will become part of the foundation upon which coach Huff will build next year's team.

Although Danielle O'Haver didn't receive all-GCR laurels, the sharpshooter did manage to etch her name in Payson High School's record books. With seven three-pointers, she tied Colleen Hale for most in a single game. Hale tallied seven in 1995.

O'Haver's 45 three-pointers during the season broke the record of 44 held jointly by Hale (1994) and Molly Hunt (1997).

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