Win Over Elks One For History Books

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When Payson High School sports history books are inked, the Lady Longhorns' 48-42 win over the Round Valley Elks might go down as one of the most remarkable.

Entering the Jan. 16 game, which was played in the friendly confines of Springerville-Eagar, the Lady Elks were a prohibitive favorite, mostly because the team has been tough to beat since Chris Matthews took over as coach in 1999.

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Lana Cluff had one of her best offensive outings of the season, scoring eight points and chalking up four assists in the Lady Longhorns' win over Show Low.

During his tenure, Round Valley won more than 75 percent of their East games and built a well-deserved reputation as a hard-nosed, close-knit group that thrived on fundamentals and defense.

In the past eight years, Round Valley won the East region championship six times. The two seasons the Lady Elks didn't take the title, they were East runners-up.

In 2003, Matthews coached the Lady Elks to the 3A state championship and several other years his teams were either in the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight.

Payson, on the other hand, has never reached the final four of the girls state basketball tournament.

Prior to tip off, the mystique surrounding the Lady Elks rendered a PHS victory a tough obstacle, even though the Lady Horns entered with a sterling 15-2 record and a 3-0 East slate.

But the Lady Horns -- many of whom are sophomores and might not have ever heard of the Elk hoopla -- refused to throw in the towel.

Much of the credit for the hard-fought win must go to Christina Deaton who finished the game with 15 points and 13 rebounds.

As important as her offense and work on the boards were to the win, it was her intimidating presence inside that stalled Round Valley's power game.

Roaming the paint like a predator on the prowl, Deaton rose up to officially block 10 Elk shot attempts.

Deaton now leads the East region in blocked shots with 46. Her closest competition, Rae Tenijieth of Blue Ridge, has 13 blocks.

Also for Payson in the win, Kayla Morgan scored 12 points and had three rebounds.

Rhea Cosay, the region's third-leading scorer, finished with eight points and seven assists. Defensively, the senior point guard was credited with eight steals and two blocked shots.

Two days after pulling off the upset at Round Valley, the Lady Horns improved their record to 16-2 (4-0 in the East) with a 57-31 win over Show Low in Wilson Dome.

It was once again the one-two punch of Deaton and Cosay that led PHS to the win.

Cosay scored 14 points, dished out eight assists and was credited with nine steals.

Deaton had 14 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and one steal.

Lana Cluff had one of her best offensive outings of the year with eight points and four assists.

The Lady Horns will attempt to retain the East region lead today, Tuesday, in Snowflake against the Lobos.

Snowflake, which is struggling with an 8-13 mark, is suffering a rare off-year and has no player ranked in the top three of the East region individual statistics.

As much as the Lobos are struggling they were no easy mark for the Lady Horns when the two teams met Jan. 5 in Wilson Dome.

In a game in which coach Grant Coley said he acquired "a few more gray hairs," the Lady Horns survived a 55-52 thriller.

Game time this evening in Snowflake is 6 p.m.

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