Riding the quest of a much-improved zone offense, the Longhorns basketball team (10-6) wrapped up 2008 non-region play with a 77-53 win over the Globe Tigers.
In dumping the Cats Jan. 5 in Wilson Dome, Robert Walker led coach Kenny Hayes' motion offense, dishing out eight assists against a Globe 2-3 zone defense.
"He distributed the ball pretty well and so did Shane Keith," Hayes said.
Keith finished with five assists, playing mostly point guard.
The heady play of the two helped Payson jump out to an early 17-13 lead and expand it to 33-20 at halftime.
Most of the third quarter the Longhorns protected the slim cushion before outscoring the Tigers 27-16 in the final stanza.
Prior to tip-off against Globe, Hayes bemoaned his team's lackluster showing against some of the zone and zone traps the Horns had faced in the early season.
"This (the win over Globe) gives us more confidence," the coach said.
In addition to the stellar showing of Walker and Keith, the Horns received steady play from Cody York and Levi Neal.
York finished with a game high 18 points and Neal tallied 14.
Ironically, the Horns -- normally a decent three-point shooting team -- did not hit a shot from beyond the three-point arc.
In the battle on the boards, Payson dominated with Tyler Savage corralling eight missed shots and Matt Wilson and Ryan Hintze hauling in six each.
Wilson, who Hayes has praised for his unselfish, steady play, also scored eight points, blocked one shot, had a steal and dished out one assist.
Elks on deck
With the non-region campaign at an end, the Horns now play 10 East games over the course of the next three weeks.
It's a stretch of crucial games that will decide the East region champion and state state tournament seeding.
The rough-and-tumble streak begins today, Tuesday, in Eagar-Springerville against the Round Valley Elks (10-8).
Hayes said he expects the Elks to be among one of the East region title contenders and is working to devise a defensive scheme to slow Elk shooting star Evan Hamblin, who is scoring at a 24 ppg clip.
RV also features another steady scorer in T. J. Peters (12.4 ppg) and three solid rebounders in Hayden Eagar, Lot Slate and Hamblin.
Following the showdown against RV, the Horns host Blue Ridge, Jan 11 in Wilson Dome. Varsity game times for all East region games are 7:30 p.m.