The Arizona Republic may have slighted some of the best basketball players in the state when it failed to include any Longhorns on its All-State list, but the Arizona Coaches Association comprised of coaches who have seen the Longhorns in action didn't make the same mistake.
Sophomore Kayla Morgan, junior Oliver Lewinson and senior Miles Huff were among the elite 12 for girls' and boys' basketball in the 3A division, as voted on by coaches from around 3A.
The trio and their families were honored at a surprise dinner arranged by head coaches Grant Coley and Chuck Hardt, and assistant coaches Ross Carpenter, Kenny Hayes and Katy and Margine Bowden, at Famous Sam's on Monday.
The players received certificates to commemorate the honor.
The awards the trio received resulted from nominations from 3A region championship coaches around the state.
Once the group of coaches decided upon the pool of nominated players, the top 12 were whittled down by secret ballot. Coley was invited to participate in the voting despite the disqualification of the girls' East co-champion Longhorns.
Coley said that he believed the Longhorns were absent from the Republic's coveted list because the paper focuses on teams in and nearer to the Valley.
"We're in Payson and they're down there," he said.
The girls' varsity coach said that he would rather be nominated by coaches, who have seen the players firsthand, than by a group of sports journalists that may not have even seen all the players play.
"We feel it's more important for coaches to nominate [them] than a newspaper," he said.
Coley said that the coaches wanted to do something special for the trio because they deserved to be recognized for their stellar play throughout the productive season for both teams.
"It's important when we have kids like that, great players, to recognize them," he said.
Coley said that he and the other coaches would like to continue the awards banquet to honor the top players on each team in the future.