The Longhorns boys basketball team (5-3) is enjoying a holiday respite from play and practice before returning to action Dec. 29 in the three-day Bradshaw Mountain Tournament.
“We are having voluntary shoot arounds right now, but we’ll go back to full practices Dec. 26 and 27 to get ready for the tournament,” coach Kenny Hayes said.
Although the first eight games of the season have allowed the second-year head coach to settle on a starting five, he has not narrowed the 10- and 11-man rotation he’s used since the onset of the year.
”We do have some depth,” he said.
On the starting five, Shane Keith is holding down the “1” or point guard position. That’s nothing new for the senior who started there last season during the Longhorns’ run to state runners-up honors. Ryan Hintze, a newcomer to the starting group, is playing the “2” or shooting guard slot, and Cody York starts at the small forward or “3” slot.
David Carlen, known more for his accomplishments in football than basketball, has taken over the “4” or power forward position.
“He is really improving, some people thing of him as just a ‘banger’ but he really is a good basketball player,” Hayes said.
Matt Wilson, one of the biggest players in the region at 6 feet, 6 inches and 250-plus pounds mans the “5” or post spot in the starting line-up.
With the likes of Tyler Savage, Ever Figueroa, Cody Waterman and Dakota Marshall coming off the bench, Hayes might have the deepest team in the 3A conference.
Sedona made up
The Horns last played on Dec. 19 against Sedona Red Rock in Wilson Dome. The game that was originally scheduled for Dec. 16 but had to be rescheduled due to snow and poor road conditions.
In the nonregion skirmish, the Longhorns jumped out to a 23-5 early lead only to have Sedona battle back to within nine points in the third quarter. It wasn’t long, however, before Payson eventually salted the game away.
Hayes said he played his top rotation most of the clash because he wanted to mold them in good basketball condition before the holiday break.
Some had no preseason training or conditioning before the hoop season tipped off because they were members of the Longhorns state championship football team.
Against Sedona, Wilson was a force inside, finishing with 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting from the field. However, he did struggle from the line, hitting just 3 of 9 attempts.
Wilson also corralled five rebounds and dished out a team-high nine assists.
Carlen had 10 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals.
York turned in a nice all around game with nine points, two assists, three rebounds and two steals.
As a team, the Horns dominated on the boards outrebounding the Scorpions 38-20.
Winning the rebounding battle should soon become old hat for the Longhorns due to the presence of Wilson, Carlen and Savage.
Although Payson’s 5-3 record is not indicative of how good the team can be, the mark is currently the best in the region.
Of course, no East games have been played this season so the Horns’ wins only buoy power point rankings and not region standings.
The Horns open pursuit of East honors Jan. 9 in Show Low. The Cougars are struggling this year with a 4-7 record that includes three straight losses.