Lady Horns Need To Get On Track

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Back-to-back losses to Alchesay, 46-38, and Blue Ridge, 60-49, dealt a blow to Lady Longhorn hopes for a top-four East finish and the resulting advantageous home seed into the regional tournament.

Couple those two defeats with the loss of the team's leading rebounder and scorer, Tori Wilbanks, to an ankle injury, and it appears coach Rory Huff's charges are reeling.

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Lady Longhorn junior varsity team member Lana Cluff races downcourt to defend a Round Valley opponent. Action took place Jan 17 in old PHS gym. The Elks slipped past the lady Horns 23-21.

But in the face of the adversity, the coach remains upbeat.

"We'll be OK, we just have to get back on track," he said.

The players will have the opportunity to battle back into the race for regional honors Jan. 20 in Show Low, and the following day in Holbrook.

Payson (11-10 overall, 1-2 in the East) owns one victory over Holbrook, 63-53. A second win is a definite possibility since the Lady Horns appear to be more talented than the Roadrunners.

Show Low is an unknown, but after Payson's losses to Alchesay and Blue Ridge, a Lady Horn win over the home-standing Cougars is almost a must.

For the trips to Show Low and Holbrook, Huff said he expects Wilbanks -- who did not play in the losses to Alchesay and Blue Ridge -- back in the line-up.

The Lady Horns could also have the services of Kendra Francis, who has been sidelined since early season with a recurring knee injury, that last year required extensive surgery.

Payson will also counter the Cougars and Roadrunners with their record-setting long-range bomber, senior guard Danielle O'Haver.

O'Haver has eclipsed the school record for most three-pointers in a career of 119 set by Coleen Hale from 1992 to 1995. Now with 120, O'Haver will be looking to build on her record against Show Low and Holbrook.

Also in the two crucial showdowns, Payson will call upon a nucleus of three battle-tested veterans who have played in every game this season -- Karina Haught, Jadyn Walden and freshman Cydney Figueroa.

Haught averages 2.7 points and 2.2 rebounds per game, but it might be her defense and tenacity that are her most valuable contributions.

In a 50-38 win over Estrella Foothills Jan. 10, Haught sparked a rally by diving on the floor for two loose balls.

Walden is also a scrappy player who leads the team in steals, with 41. She also averages 3.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

Figueroa has been able to shake off the freshmen jitters and contribute about four points and two rebounds per game.

Two other freshmen, Christina Deaton and Kayla O'Donnel, have also contributed to the varsity effort this season and could see extensive action down the East road.

Varsity game times this weekend in Holbrook are 6 p.m. Junior varsity clashes will be played at 4:30 p.m. and freshmen meet at 7:30 p.m.

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