Lady Longhorn hopes and dreams of a state championship came to a screeching halt with a 48-17 loss to powerful Chandler Seton.
The defeat, Feb. 15 in the opening round of the state tournament in the Northern Arizona University Skydome in Flagstaff, ousted Payson from the single-elimination tournament.
Payson entered the postseason as the East region's No. 4 seed pitted against the state-ranked Sentinels who represented the South's No. 1 seed.
From tip off, it was obvious why state pollsters have thrown so much recognition Chandler Seton's way.
Showcasing a strong inside game and a potent offensive attack from beyond the three-point line, the Sentinels built a 25-10 lead.
With 5:33 remaining in the third quarter, Chandler Seton had expanded the cushion to 31-12.
The remainder of the game, the Lady Horn offense struggled, scoring just five more points.
While the loss spelled the end of the high school careers for seniors Jadyn Walden, Danielle O'Haver and Kendra Francis, it also marked the debut of a talented group of freshmen who will form the nucleus of future teams. The first year players included Christina Deaton, Kayla O'Donnell and Cydney Figueroa.
The Lady Horns will also return next season with the 5-foot-10-inch junior, Tori Wilbanks, who led the team in scoring and rebounding.
Throughout the campaign, Wilbanks was Payson's go-to player during crunch time.
The highlight of the 2005-2006 season for the Lady Horns might have been a Feb. 8 East regional tournament 41-40 win over the homestanding Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets.
The upset earned the Lady Horns a tournament fourth-place finish and a berth in the state tournament.
The season was also highlighted by the outside shooting of O'Haver who set school records for successful three point shots in a season and a career.
The sharpshooter has said she would like to continue playing basketball on the collegiate level.
With the season at an end, the team will gather one final time for the traditional awards banquet. Coach Rory Huff said the time, date and location will be announced next week.
Also, players will be looking forward to the upcoming coaches voting in which all-region teams will be selected.
Seniors are eligible to play in the annual Arizona Coaches Association North vs. South All-Star game. Those players will be selected at the conclusion of all the 1A-5A state tournament games in late February.