The scrappy Globe Tigers of the South region are all that remain for the Lady Longhorns before PHS tips off its quest for an East championship and a berth in the 3A state tournament.
The two Gila County teams meet in a non-region tuneup at 7 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, in Globe.
Following that showdown, the Lady Horn agenda features 10 consecutive East region showdowns. The results of those games will decide the East champion and all-important seeding into the 3A state tournament.
But before the East and state quests begin, Lady Horn coach Grant Coley is anxious to see how his team will fare against a Tiger team that coach Tony Kern says has a 14-2 record.
In the Copper Cities Tournament, held Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 in Globe and Miami, the Tigers flexed their collective hardwood muscle to a 7-0 mark.
Globe also made a brief appearance Dec. 28 and 29, in the Payson Holiday Hoops tournament. In the opening round, the Tigers looked impressive defeating Mesa Westwood 81-50. Later, however, Globe lost 54-46 to Horizon Honors of Phoenix.
"We've heard a lot about them; we want to seem them and what kind of team they have," Coley said.
The Lady Horns enter the clash against the Cats sporting 13-2 credentials and fresh from winning the consolation championship of the Holiday Hoops.
After dropping the tournament opener 65-53 to Mesa, the Lady Horns rebounded to beat Higley, 58-23, and in the consolation title game, defeated Desert Mountain, 52-48.
In a voting by coaches held throughout the two-day prep fray, Payson's Christina Deaton -- a 6-foot-2-inch junior -- was named to the all-tournament team.
Tournament director and PHS assistant coach Margine Bawden said it was easy to understand why coaches tapped Deaton for the honor, "she was very deserving, she played well."
Bawden also called the 16-team tournament a complete success saying feedback indicated players, coaches, parents, fans and officials were pleased with the almost two days of continuous prep action.
About the only snafu that occurred was on opening morning when one of the teams failed to show and Holbrook's team bus broke down, in Heber, just an hour before the Roadrunners were scheduled to play.
Those misfortunes forced the Lady Horns to play about four hours earlier than anticipated. That game, against Mesa, was Payson's only tournament loss.
"It was tough for us to get ready for that game," Coley said.
In defeating Desert Mountain in the consolation consolation title game, the Horns were led by Deaton, who used her size to muscle inside for a game-high 21 points. She also led the team in rebounding with 12 and was a defensive force, racking up four blocks.
As good as Deaton was, Coley called the win a team effort, saying all the players stepped up to contribute, especially point guard Cydney Figueroa.
"The stats don't show what she did, but we put her on the other team's point guard (defensively) and she made a huge difference," Coley said.
Also for the Lady Horns, Kayla Morgan tallied 13 points and Robertson finished with eight. Morgan and Robertson also hooked up to haul in a combined 21 rebounds.
Although Marquel Waterman missed her four shots from the field, she dished out three assists, had one steal and corralled two rebounds.
With the East region season just over the horizon, Coley is unsure of which teams will battle the defending champion Lady Horns for the 2008 title.
"We just don't know, it's going to be a race this year," he said.
Although it was the Alchesay Falcons who provided the Lady Horns their greatest competition last season, it could be Round Valley, Blue Ridge or the Snowflake Lobos who will be forces to reckon with in 2008.
Payson beat Alchesay, 45-42, and Round Valley, 69-36, in early December at the Round Valley Shoot Out Tournament,but Coley says those results could be misleading.
"They could turn around the next time we meet," he said.
Round Valley, coached by Chris Matthews, is a team that is in the title mix every season and tradition-rich Snowflake usually features a bevy of talented players.
In Whiteriver, where basketball is king, the Alchesay Falcon effort is highlighted by highly conditioned players who excel under a run-and-gun offensive style.
Coley also anticipates Blue Ridge will be a dark-horse contender and Show Low, an unknown.
The regular season wraps up Feb. 2 and the region tournament begins about one week later.