With nine of the top 10 players returning from last season's Lady Longhorn Class 3A East championship-winning basketball team, the Payson High School hardwood crew is expected to again challenge for regional honors.
The first step toward a repeat championship was taken June 8 and 9 in Lakeside, where the Lady Horn players prepped for the 2007-2008 season at the Blue Ridge Invitational.
In the 11-team, off-season shoot-out, the Lady Horns finished with a 4-2 record, competing against some of the state's best, including Class 4A and 5A teams.
Payson opened with lopsided wins over Blue Ridge No. 2 and Mingus, before losing a 33-31 heartbreaker to big-school power Mesa Red Mountain.
"We were up by one (point) with 30 seconds to go and lost," said coach Grant Coley.
The Lady Horns rebounded from the loss to beat Round Valley and Mountain View, but then lost 49-45 to Chinle.
Following the team's return to Payson, Coley cited Cydney Figueroa, Christina Deaton, Kayla Morgan and Jenna Robertson for their floor play.
All four were varsity starters last season.
Figueroa played mostly as point guard during the tournament. Deaton held down the low-post slot and Morgan played wing and backup point guard.
Coley said his strategy with Robertson was to station her in the low blocks on offense and move her to the point position on defense.
Among the best news to come out of the tournament was that Deaton appears to have fully recovered from a hand injury that often slowed her last season.
"You could tell by watching, she is not bothered much by (the injury) anymore," Coley said.
Also on the summer agenda for the Lady Horns is open gym practice sessions from 6 to 8 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday in Wilson Dome.
The team also has several upcoming scrimmages scheduled with Desert Mountain and will travel June 25 to June 29 to Gonzaga University near Spokane, Wash. to participate in a team camp.