By winning Payson High School's first ever Holiday Hoops Invitational basketball championship, the 2004-2005 Lady Longhorns raised the bar for all teams that follow.
For future squads to equal the accomplishments of the current crew, they'll need to duplicate the Lady Horns Dec. 28 and 29 sweep through the 16-team field.
Posting a 4-0 record, the Lady Horns opened with a 48-24 drubbing of Scottsdale Arcadia. The romp continued with a 63-36 win over Notre Dame Academy and a hard-fought 45-41 semi final victory against Round Valley. In the championship finale, the Lady Horns whipped the Page Sand Devils 50-33.
In addition to winning the team championship, the Lady Horns raked in individual honors when Haylee Huff and Tanya Davis were chosen to the 10-member all-tournament team. Haylee Huff, coach Rory Huff's daughter, also was named the tournament's most valuable player by a voting of the coaches.
Although she wasn't a prolific scorer, tallying just 20 points in four games, Huff proved to be a capable floor general and defensive stopper throughout the holiday fray.
"I wanted my actions to speak louder than words," she said. "And I just tried to drive, dish (the ball) off and play good defense."
The most valuable player award was the first the 5-foot, 5-inch senior has won in a tournament.
Davis was able to showcase her offensive consistency in which she scored 11, 10, nine and seven points in four outings. She also brought a hard-nosed, scrappy attitude that helped elevate the play of her teammates.
For Lady Horns, the tournament gut-check occurred in the rough-and-tumble Round Valley game.
After taking a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter, the Lady Horns appeared on their way to coasting to a win over their old rivals from the 3A East region.
But the Lady Elks put on a determined late charge that quickly erased Payson's lead. With about a minute remaining, the Lady Elks assumed a 41-40 lead.
Davis was knocked down and had to leave the game, and a flagrant foul was later signaled against Round Valley. That's when the Lady Horns turned up the heat.
Flying around the court like the Tasmanian devil, Haylee Huff scored two crucial late baskets to stave off the Round Valley rally.
The Lady Horns received a huge defensive boost in the final minute of the game when 5-foot, 9-inch senior Krystal McRae skied through the air to block a fast-break layup attempt that, if successful, would have given Round Valley a three-point lead.
"That was a key to the win, a turning point in the game," coach Huff said.
The Lady Horns thrived on a well-balanced scoring attack in which all nine players on the roster scored. Krystal McRae and Davis had nine each. Tracy Fitzpatrick contributed seven and Autumn Herrera, Danielle O'Haver and Britney Owens tallied four each.
In the tournament-opening win over Arcadia, Davis' trio of three-pointers and two from the hot hand of O'Haver were too much for the Titans to overcome.
Fitzpatrick also turned in a commendable performance battling her way inside for 10 points.
In whipping Notre Dame, a team Payson bested 51-33 Nov. 22 in Wilson Dome, the Lady Horns posted one of its best quarters of scoring.
In the second stanza, while leading 10-8, Payson lit up the scoreboard for 24 points. Included in the outburst were a pair of three-pointers from O'Haver who tied Herrera and Davis for high-point honors with 10 each.
Prior to the championship game against Page, coach Huff said he was not looking forward to playing the Sand Devils mostly because his girls don't usually perform well against reservation teams.
This time out, Page was no match for the Lady Horns who coasted to the win behind eight points each from Tori Wilbanks, Fitzpatrick and McRae.
On the all-tournament team with Haylee Huff and Davis were Kimberly Tsinnie (Tuba City); Brittney Pihl (Arcadia); Kaity Wigman (Sinagua); Jessica Vargas (Page); Natasha Begay (Page); Marci King (Prescott); Michelle Hawes (Round Valley); Markee Davis (Round Valley); Megan Perrin (Fountain Hills); and Amanda Bunt (Notre Dame).