The Lady Longhorns will open pursuit of the school's first girls state basketball championship against a highly regarded Chandler Seton Catholic team that enters the fray clutching a No. 4 state ranking and the title of South Region champions.
The Class 3A state first round clash will be played at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Northern Arizona University Skydome in Flagstaff.
Payson enters the skirmish as the East's No. 4 seed after posting a 1-2 record in the season ending regional tournament.
Seton represents the South's No. 1 seed.
If the Lady Horns can pull off the upset of the prep sports season and whip Seton, Payson would advance to a second round game Feb. 15 at NAU.
The Lady Horns assured themselves of the seed into the state tournament and a fourth place East Region tournament finish with a nail-biting 41-40 win over the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets, Feb. 8 in Lakeside.
In upsetting the Jackets in front of their home crowd, the Lady Horns jumped out to an early 8-4 lead, thanks to a pair of first quarter three-pointers from sharpshooter Danielle O'Haver.
While O'Haver was heating up the nets, the Payson defense was holding the Jacket offense in check.
Only Lathena Hill's two baskets in the opening stanza kept BR in the game.
At halftime, Payson led 20-11, thanks in part to freshman Cydney Figueroa's seven second-quarter points that included five-for-five free throw shooting.
Figueroa eventually finished six-for-eight from the line.
In the third quarter, Payson built a 30-22 lead before the never-say-die Jackets came roaring back to outscore the Horns 18-10 in the final eight minutes.
The outcome might have been different had the Jackets been able to cash in at the free throw line. In the final stanza, BR missed the front end of three one-and-one bonus situations.
While the Jackets were misfiring from the line, the Lady Horns were only adequate, making six of 11 free throws.
Freshman Christina Deaton took game scoring honors with 12 points.
O'Haver, the school record holder for three pointers in a single season (60 thus far) and a career, chipped in with 10 points, nine of which were scored from beyond the 19-foot, 9-inch arc.
In addition to her scoring, the senior guard excelled on defense and running the offense.
"She played great all-around," Coach Rory Huff said.
The coach cited the efforts of the entire team, saying the Lady Horns pulled off a rarity in East Region play in that "we went into their gym and won."
The home court advantage has traditionally been a huge edge in East hoop play.
In whipping BR, Payson also upset a higher seeded team. The Jackets entered the postseason tournament as the No. 4 regular season finisher. Payson was seeded fifth and with the win posted a 2-1 advantage over BR this season.
Following the win over the Jackets, the Lady Horns advanced Feb. 10 to second round play in Show Low. There, Payson lost 52-26 to Snowflake.