After splitting East region weekend games, the Longhorns will return to the hardwood today, Tuesday, against the Snowflake Lobos. Game time is 7:30 p.m. in Snowflake, but the exact location was not known at press time.
Snowflake has built a new gymnasium, adjacent to the older one on the SHS campus, but the fire marshal must give the OK for the game to be played in the new facility.
If that approval is received, the PHS vs. SHS clash would be the first game played in the new gymnasium.
"We won't know if the new gym is ready until Tuesday morning or noon," PHS athletic director Dave Bradley said. "We will let everybody know as soon as we can."
Wherever it is played, Payson enters the game a solid favorite, having beaten the Lobos 62-43 Jan. 6 in Wilson dome.
In East play Jan. 20, the Longhorns improved to 11-10 with a 60-50 win over the Show Low Cougars.
The Horns' winning record, however, fell to the break-even mark one day later after a 56-43 loss to the home-standing Holbrook Roadrunners.
In the win over Show Low, the Horns doubled the score, 20-10, over the Cats in the first quarter and maintained about a 10-point cushion throughout the remainder of the clash.
"We had a few defensive lapses, but the kids found a way to hang in there and battle," coach Chuck Hardt said.
Payson's caging of the Cats might be attributed to good shooting from two-point land and a rebounding edge
The Horns shot 60 percent, compared to 49 percent by Show Low, and out-rebounded the Cougars 25-19.
The statistic the Horns didn't excel in is the very same nuisance that has bitten them in the rear most of the season -- turnovers.
Payson committed 18 miscues and Show Low 14.
Simply put, when the Horns take good care of the ball, they are a competitive team.
When play is sloppy, Payson struggles.
Individually against Show Low, the Horns received commendable efforts from Brandon Buckner, Robert Neuman and sophomore Ollie Lewinson.
Buckner continued his hot hand with 11 points on four-for-six shooting from the field and a three-for-three effort from the line. He also dished out four assists.
Neuman had 10 points and Lewinson finished with nine while corralling eight rebounds.
Against region-leading and state-ranked Holbrook, the Horns again had a bite taken out of their backsides by turnovers, committing a whopping 19 floor errors.
"We turned the ball over too much, especially down the stretch," Hardt said.
Payson trailed only 37-36 early in the fourth quarter, but were outscored 19-7 in the late go.
"In the fourth quarter we were zero-for-two from the line and Holbrook was eight-for-eight," Hardt said. "We didn't get to the line and when we did, we couldn't convert."
Despite the loss, Hardt praised the players, saying, "The kids executed the game plan very well.
"Our effort was outstanding, we keep getting better."
Lewinson took game scoring honors with 10 points. Buckner had eight and Brian Schwind finished with seven as well as 11 rebounds.
Junior guard Miles Huff scored five points and dished out four assists.