A 53-44 victory Jan. 24 in Snowflake might have been the win the Longhorns needed for a top-four finish and an advantageous seed into the East tournament.
With the triumph, Payson improved its region record to 4-4 (11-11 overall) and are all alone in fourth place in the standings.
If the Horns can hold on to fourth, they would open the region tournament Feb. 8 in Wilson dome against the No. 5 finisher.
Home court advantage against a lower seed could be a huge boost to the Horns' state tournament hopes.
The No. 5 finisher the Horns play in the first round could be either Round Valley or Snowflake, both of which are currently 1-6 in East play.
Also in region standing, the Holbrook Roadrunners are first with a 7-0 record (21-1 overall), Alchesay is second at 7-1 (14-5) and Blue Ridge is third with a 5-3 mark (14-8).
Rebuilding Show Low holds down the cellar dweller spot at 0-6 (2-11).
The Horns have the opportunity to improve their East record and position in the standings tomorrow, Saturday, in Wilson dome against Alchesay. Game time is 7 p.m.
Payson also plays Jan. 31 at Blue Ridge in Lakeside.
In whipping Snowflake, the Horns overcame a slow start in which they led just 4-2, with two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Coach Chuck Hardt said the transition game wasn't clicking, but the defense turned in a commendable effort.
"We were man-to-man the whole game, never went to our match-up zone," he said.
The Horns also struggled with their shooting, hitting only 40 percent from two-point land. From beyond the 19-foot-9-inch three-point mark, they made just two of seven attempts and were one-for-six from the free throw line.
Robert Neuman led all scorers, with 12 points. Brian Schwind finished with 10 and Hunter Hardt had eight.
Brandon Buckner, one of the most accurate shooters on the team, had a rare off night in which he failed to score.
Although the Horns had their problems, the bottom line is they departed the White Mountains with a "W".
"Teams often come back on us, as Snowflake did, but the kids usually seem to find a way to win," Hardt said.