Longhorns Tromp Elks With Ease

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Round Valley has been billed since early season as the East team that could give the talented and state third-ranked Payson Longhorns fits.

If that's true, all that's left in the region title chase is the shouting.

That's because the Longhorns (11-5; 1-0) left little doubt which was the better team, handily defeating the Elks 76-49 Jan. 8 in both team's East openers.

Rendering the Horns win ever more impressive than the lopsided score is that the victory was chalked up on RV's home court -- the fabled Springerville-Eagar Ensphere.

In the multimillion-dollar facility, opponents usually struggle to adjust to the environment, mostly because of the massive surroundings. The reticulated glue-laminated timber dome facility seats 9,200 fans, is 104 feet in height at the center, features a field area of 113,000 square feet and 8 million cubic feet of space.

"It is a big place that can be tough to play in," PHS first-year coach Kenny Hayes said.

But the Horns had no trouble felling a home in the dome, jumping out to a 23-5 lead, which RV closed to 46-41 at halftime, before coasting to the win.

Hayes credited the victory to a stifling defense that caused turnovers and miscues.

"Our defense created a lot of shots and we were pretty aggressive," Hayes said.

Left-handed senior forward Robert Walker paved the way to the win, with a team-high 15 points.

"He drove to the basket well and got some chances on the free-throw line," Hayes said.

Levi Neal and Cody York finished with 14 points each and Matt Wilson used his 6-foot, 6-inch frame to battle inside for 10 points.

Hayes cited Tyler Savage for his work on the boards, calling him a "rebounding machine."

The game marked the return of 6-foot, 8-inch Oliver Lewinson, who has missed almost two weeks while traveling overseas with his family.

Lewinson, the king pin in the Longhorns run to last year's state runner-up slot, saw only limited minutes as Hayes carefully worked him back into the lineup.

The state third-ranked Longhorns quest for an East region title continues today, Friday, and tomorrow in Wilson Dome. The Horns host Blue Ridge this evening and Show Low tomorrow. Game time for both is 7:30 p.m.

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