Lady Horns Finish Second In Tournament

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For the Lady Longhorns, the Holiday Hoops basketball tournament was highlighted by the proverbial "good news, bad news" scenario.

The good news centers on the Payson High School squad finishing with a 3-1 tournament record and a second-place finish overall.

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Sophomore Christina Deaton will replace Jenna Robertson, who is out with an ankle injury. Deaton is an able replacement, but has seen limited playing time in early season, mostly because of a wrist injury suffered during the volleyball season.

The bad news is headlined by the loss of sophomore center/forward Jenna Robertson who is the team's leading rebounder, averaging 10 retrieves a game.

Robertson will be sidelined for up to a month with an ankle injury incurred Dec. 30 in a tournament semifinal game against Salt River.

On the play she was injured, Robertson jumped high to retrieve a defensive rebound and came down on the ankle of either a teammate or a Salt River opponent.

Almost as soon as she landed, Robertson fell to the floor in obvious pain.

Trainer Jerod Torrey, seated only feet from where she collapsed, immediately rushed to her aid. After examining Robertson's ankle, Torrey and teammates escorted her to the locker room for treatment.

"She will be missed, it'll be tough to replace her," coach Grant Coley said.

Without Robertson's rock-solid presence in the lineup, Coley will start sophomore Christina Deaton in her place.

Deaton is an able replacement, but has seen limited playing time in early season, mostly because of a wrist injury suffered during the volleyball season.

"She'll need to be ready now," Coley said.

Junior Brittney McDaniel might also be available to help fill the void created by the loss of Robertson.

"She's been out with a concussion but will be back," Coley said.

Brittney's father, Tony, said doctors cleared his daughter to return to full-time action and she should be ready to play Jan. 5 against Snowflake.

The results

After opening the Holiday Hoops Tournament Dec. 29 in Wilson Dome with three consecutive wins, the Lady Horns advanced to the championship game against a Class 5A Gilbert Tiger team that entered the fray with an 11-4 record.

Without Robertson to battle underneath the boards for rebounds and to limit Tiger second shot opportunities, the Lady Horns struggled to remain in contention.

Although Payson lost the gold medal clash 47-31, the team did look formidable in its three victories.

That trio of wins were against Phoenix Notre Dame, 53-33; Many Farms, 59-52; and Salt River, 55-41.

In the tournament-opening victory over the Notre Dame Saints, the Lady Horns jumped out to a 19-12 lead and expanded it to 29-19 at halftime. Early in the fourth quarter, PHS led 47-28.

Eventually, the final stanza turned into a low scoring period in which both teams combined for only 11 points.

The Lady Horns senior point guard, Rhea Cosay -- who was later chosen to the all-tournament team in a voting of coaches -- took game scoring honors with 11 points. Deaton finished with 11 and turned in an admirable job on the boards.

Against Many Farms, Deaton might have enjoyed the best performance of her young career, tallying a game high of 20 points.

Also for Payson, Cosay posted 16 points and Kayla Morgan contributed 15.

In polishing off Salt River by double digits, the Lady Horns were led by the rebounding of Morgan and Deaton, and the all-around floor play of Cosay.

During all three of Payson's wins, opponents had a tough time slowing the antics of Cosay, an Alchesay transfer, whose ball-handling and ball-hawking skills render her probably the finest point guard in the East region.

Cosay leads Payson in scoring (13.9 points per game), assists (5.5 per game) and steals (4.6 per game).

Although the PHS star didn't win the tournament MVP trophy -- it went to a Gilbert player -- her floor play and leadership were the keys to the Lady Horns' second-place finish.

With the Holiday Hoops tune-up over, the Lady Horns embark on a monthlong East region trail that includes 12 region clashes. The results of those will decide the team's postseason fate.

The Lady Horns begin their run with a reputation as a fast starting and high scoring team. In the first 12 games of the season, the Lady Horns averaged 23.4 points in the first quarter and 57.7 points per game.

Which means, when Payson gets a quick start out of the gate, the team is often off and running toward a victory.

The teams mostly likely to battle PHS for East region honors include Round Valley, Alchesay and Blue Ridge.

Longtime girls basketball observers, including former Lady Horn coach Rory Huff, say the talent level in the East might be down a little this season, but there are some quality players on most every team's roster.

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