Oliver Lewinson's 6 feet, 8 inches of height and talent in the low blocks proved too much for Monument Valley to handle in the opening round of the Class 3A state tournament.
In the clash Feb. 14 in the Skydome on the campus of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Lewinson led the Longhorns to a 61-55 victory, scoring a game high 23 points.
Many of his points came off feeds from teammates Miles Huff and Levi Neal who's strategy was to spilt the MV defense on dribble drives then dish off down low to Lewinson.
When Lewinson wasn't scoring, he used his expansive reach to alter Mustang shot attempts and corral rebounds.
As effective as the junior center/forward was, the clash was a nip and tuck affair throughout.
Payson led 26-25 at halftime and with 4:32 remaining in the game took the Horns biggest lead of the clash, 53-44, on Lewinson's slam-dunk.
But, only three minutes later, never say die MV pulled to within 55-50 and had chance to close the gap even further. The Mustangs, however, missed a golden opportunity when a layup rolled off the rim and a follow up three-point attempt bounded away harmlessly.
With just over a minute remaining and hundreds of Mustang faithful on their feet, Neal hit one of two free throws to up the Horn lead to 56-50. For the game, Neal made good on seven of eight free throw attempts.
In the final minute of play, MV intentionally fouled in an ill-fated attempt to erase the Horn lead.
In addition to a strong offensive game from Lewinson, the Horns received 15 points from Cody York.
The state opener was to mark the full time return of senior forward Carlos Lopez who has been nursing a sore ankle since the post season began.
Although Lopez said he thought he was back to full strength, coaches limited his minutes apparently hoping he will be at his best in the remainder of the tournament.
With Payson's win over MV, the Horns advance to the second round against Chandler Seton. Game time is 11:30 a.m. today, Friday, in the NAU Sky dome.
Seton advanced in the tournament with a 75-46 first round win over Parker.
The Chandler school entered the post season as the South region champion.
Payson represents the East region's second seed.
Payson and Seton met Jan. 6 in a nonregion game that the Sentinels won 59-56.