Critical Absences Hurt Longhorns

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Several absences in the weekend's Pepsi Invitational Tournament held in Flagstaff proved to be a bigger opponent for the Longhorns than the opposition.

The Longhorns were without several players for two of the three games -- on Thursday against Sabino for disciplinary reasons and on Saturday against Valley Christian for a college entrance exam. The Horns suffered losses in both games, posting a tournament record of 1-2.

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Oliver Lewinson made 16 points in the Chinle game at the tournament and he also came down with 13 rebounds for the Horns.

"The Sabino game was a very good game, we led most of the way, but our depth due to our short roster caused us problems," Coach Kenny Hayes said.

Four players were forced to sit out the Sabino game for "breaking a minor team rule," Hayes said.

Senior forward Robert Walker carried the offense with 21 points off 7-for-12 shooting from the field and a 7-for-10 performance from the charity stripe. Walker also added six rebounds and three steals for the Horns.

A buzzer-beater by Junior Matt Wilson forced the game into overtime, but the shorthanded Horns fell short in OT and were outscored 18-9 in the extra period.

"In overtime, we ran out of steam and did not execute," Hayes said.

Junior forward Tyler Savage experienced a perfect shooting night, going 7-for-7 from the field and draining his only free throw. He added 15 points for the Horns.

Without some of its more experienced players, the Horns hurt their chances by committing 31 turnovers against the Sabercats.

The only game the Horns played at full strength was Friday's 75-66 win over a ranked Chinle team.

"Chinle (was) ranked number two in 3A at the time," Hayes said.

Walker, who was a rebound shy of a double-double, contributed 19 points on a 7-for-19 shooting performance including a 4-for-4 night at the line.

Senior Oliver Lewinson added 16 points of his own on 7-for-12 shooting from the field and a 2-for-5 performance from the line. He also came down with 13 rebounds for the Horns.

Junior Shane Keith added eight points along with four steals and six assists, and senior Levi Neal posted 12 points and four rebounds.

"(Chinle) played a zone the entire game and it threw us off a little at the beginning of the game, but we did a better job near the end of the game executing our half-court offense," Hayes said.

On Saturday the Longhorns took on a Valley Christian team they beat a week before. Due to the absence of three players who were taking the ACT test, the Horns could not repeat the result, losing 58-50.

"(They) played with a lot of heart but without a full team present for all of the games, we ended up struggling a lot," Hayes said.

Walker stayed hot, adding 15 points and five rebounds to his tournament totals. Savage posted a double-double, with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Shane added 11 points and five assists of his own and junior Cody York grabbed eight rebounds for the Horns.

Hayes said he was still impressed with the effort his team showed during the tournament.

"Missing the players was hard because I thought we would have a chance to contend for the tournament championship, but I think the experience gained for (players) who didn't usually get playing time may be more beneficial in the future," Hayes said.

Next up for the 4-3 Longhorns is an away game against the 4-3 Red Rock Scorpions of Sedona. The Scorpions will look to knock off the Longhorns behind the offensive prowess of senior Michael Krajnak, who is averaging nearly 20 points and more than eight rebounds a game.

Hayes said the Horns will focus on "working smarter."

"We will be looking to improve our execution and trying to eliminate foul trouble that we create for ourselves," he said.

Game times are 4 p.m. for freshmen, 5:30 p.m. for JV and 7 p.m. for varsity at RRHS.

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