The Payson Longhorns were not ready to play Wednesday night when they took the court against the Fountain Hills Falcons -- 3A champions two years running.
The Falcons ripped off 25 points in the first quarter, led Payson by 12 points and never looked back, winning 74-61.
Coach Chuck Hardt said the Falcons shot extremely well and, in the first half, connected on all seven three-pointers they shot.
"They shot such a high percentage that we could not get out and run," Hardt said. "They shot 70 plus percent in the first half, and that is unheard of."
He also said that Fountain Hills played much better defense than he saw earlier in the year.
At the half, the Longhorns were behind by 21 points, 43-22.
Hardt said his team got within 14 points a few times in the third quarter, but missed some shots that enabled Fountain Hills to pull away again.
The coach took full responsibility for the lopsided score.
"I did not have the kids ready to play against Fountain Hills," he said, adding that his team's offense stalled. He said he knew going in that the game was going to be tough, mentioning the back-to-back championships the Falcons won the past two years.
"Their transition defense was real good," he said.
Payson was unable to turn its point guard, Miles Huff, loose in the open court, he said. The start of the game, Hardt said, mirrored the rest, with the Longhorns missing a layup and wide-open three-pointer that could have put them on top 5-0.
"We have not had a lot of gym time, and that has not helped us," he said.
Top scorers for the Longhorns were Oliver Lewinson (13), Carlos Lopez (13), Levi Neal (10) and Huff finished with eight.
Other Longhorns who scored were Hunter Hardt, Anthony Pearce, Robert Walker and Matt Jones. The head coach said he thought his team would be in the game until the final buzzer sounded, but added the Falcons took away that opportunity with their first-quarter play.
"We did a lot of standing around, and that is because I did not have them properly prepared," he said.
In junior varsity action, Payson improved to 3-1 with 61-44 win over Fountain Hills.
Coach Kenny Hayes said his team started playing better defense as well as shutting down the Falcons' top scorer in the second half. At halftime, the game was tied 27-27.
"We started getting more steals and it made the game a whole lot easier," he said.
Top scorers for the junior varsity team were Matt Wilson (20), Shane Keith (12), Rich Halenar (7) and Chase Sevay, who also finished with seven points.