The Lady Longhorns open pursuit of a regional championship and a berth into the state tournament against a familiar foe -- the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets.
The East region tournament opener, pitting the two rivals against one another, tips off at 5 p.m. Feb. 8 at Blue Ridge High School in Lakeside.
The Yellow Jackets earned the advantageous home seed for the opener because they finished fourth in the final regular season standings and the Lady Horns were fifth.
If Payson can nail down a victory in Lakeside, the team would advance to the state tournament as a minimum four seed. The state shootout begins Feb. 14 in Flagstaff.
A loss against the Jackets would spell the end of the season for the Lady Horns.
Payson enters the regional tournament opener in Lakeside, having defeated Blue Ridge 36-27 Jan. 31 in BRHS gymnasium.
The key to that win was rock solid defense, in which Payson held the Jackets to two points in the first quarter and five in the second.
"Our goal was to hold them to 40 points or less, which is what we did," coach Rory Huff said. "Our team really picked up the ‘D'."
The victory was also revenge of sorts for a 60-49 loss Jan. 14 to the Yellow Jackets in Wilson dome.
In the win, junior forward-center Tori Wilbanks proved to be to top gun, finishing with a game high 11 points and 13 rebounds. Freshman Cydney Figueroa chipped in with seven points and dished out three assists.
More at region
If the Longhorns win the region opener against BR, the team would advance to a second round game Feb. 10 against East regular season champion Snowflake (11-1).
A victory over the Lobos would propel Payson into the championships finale Feb. 11.
A loss to Snowflake would drop Payson into a battle for third place, also Feb. 11.
All region tournament games will be played at Show Low High School.
State tournament games, except for the final four and championship, will be in Flagstaff. The semi-finals and finals will be played Feb. 24 and 25 in Glendale Arena.