A sweep of two regular season finales -- Show Low and Round Valley -- has earned the Payson Longhorns (7-5) a fourth place East finish and an advantageous home seed into the regional tournament.
The Longhorns will open the postseason at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8 in Wilson dome against the Snowflake Lobos.
If the Horns defeat Snowflake they would advance to the regional tournament semifinals Feb. 10 in Show Low against regular season regional champion and state No. 3 ranked Holbrook (23-2).
A win Feb. 8 over the Lobos would also send the Longhorns to the state tournament, Feb. 14 at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, with a minimum four-seed.
However, the Horns could improve that seed by whipping Holbrook in the semifinals or -- if Payson falls to the Roadrunners -- by winning a battle for third and fourth place Feb. 11 in Show Low.
"We are capable of winning any of the tournament games and the championship," coach Chuck Hardt said.
If the best the Horns can do, however, were a state No. 4 seed, Payson would be in the unenviable position of tipping off the 3A state tournament Feb. 14 in Flagstaff, probably against No. 1 state-ranked Chandler Seton Catholic (23-3).
Cougars caged, Elks tagged
In whipping Round Valley, 64-52, Feb. 3 in Eagar-Springerville, the Horns rode the rebounding and scoring of senior Brian Schwind to the victory. Schwind finished with 16 points including a nine-for-14 effort from the free throw line. The 6-foot, 4-inch forward/center also corralled 15 rebounds.
Fellow senior Tommy Ashby turned in the best offensive effort of his varsity career with 12 points. All evening long, Ashby was on target hitting five-of-seven shots from the field and two-of-two at the line.
"He did a good job for us down low," Hardt said.
Robert Neuman contributed 13 points and senior sharpshooter Brandon Buckner finished with nine.
The curtain fell on the Longhorns' regular season the following evening in Wilson dome with a 64-37 win over the struggling Show Low Cougars.
Once again, Schwind led the scoring parade with 16 points, sinking eight of nine field goal attempts. Junior guard Bryson Addington tallied 12, Neuman finished with 11, and 6-foot, 8-inch sophomore Ollie Lewinson battled his way inside for 10 points.
As the Horns prepare for the postseason, Hardt is confident the players have peaked and are ready for tournament challenges.
"We are improving and playing our best basketball of the season," he said. "We are looking forward to it (the postseason)."
On the junior varsity front, coach Kenny Hayes' squad wrapped up a 17-3 season with a 61-55 win over Show Low and a 55-33 thumping of Round Valley.
"We played pretty well in both games," Hayes said.