As much as first-year varsity head coach Kenny Hayes enjoys putting a state-ranked, winning team on the court, it is the unselfish camaraderie of the players he most respects.
"We don't have players worrying about who is scoring the most points or their playing time," he said. "The players are most concerned about what is best for the team."
By putting the good of the team over personal interests, the Longhorns were able to hammer out wins over East region foes Blue Ridge, 71-36 and Show Low 60-35.
The two victories, which were chalked up Jan. 11 and 12 in Wilson Dome, improved the Longhorns overall record to 13-5. But, most importantly, the team remains undefeated (3-0) in the East region title chase.
Against Blue Ridge, the Horns opened up a 17-10 early lead, expanded it to 41-18 at halftime and then coasted to the win as Hayes emptied his bench.
In the onslaught, a foursome of Longhorns scored in double figures.
Matt Wilson, Levi Neal and Oliver Lewinson tallied 12 points each and Tyler Savage finished with 10.
Showing on well-rounded offensive attack, all but one of the 10 players on the roster broke into the scoring column.
As good as the team was offensively, it was the Horns play without the ball that drew the praise of Hayes.
"We did a very good on defense, I was proud of it," he said.
Defensively, the Horns held BR to single digits in both the second and fourth quarters. In the other two stanzas, the Yellow Jackets barely reached double figures scoring 10 and 11 points.
In overall floor play, Neal -- despite playing guard -- corralled a team leading nine rebounds, had two steals and dished out one assist.
In the 25-point shellacking of Show Low, Neal was equally as impressive as he was against Blue Ridge.
The senior sharp shooter finished with a team-high 13 points, had three rebounds, four assists and one steal.
Once again, it was the Longhorn defense that stepped up to help nail down the victory.
The frustrated Cougars, who were coming off a state football championship, scored only 14 points in the entire first half.
In the fourth quarter, with Payson reserves on the court, the Horns outscored SL 14-9.
The Horns continue their quest for an East championship and a berth in the state tournament today, Tuesday, at Whiteriver, against Alchesay.
Last year, on the Longhorns way to a state runner-up title, it was the Falcons who provided Payson some of its greatest competition.
This season, however, the Falcons have a new coach in William Mac Beach, and have stumbled out to a 4-13 start.
Against a Blue Ridge team that the Horns soundly thumped by 35 points, the Falcons won only 46-45.
Seniors Isaiah Parker and Warren Quintero engineer the floor game, but have not shown the scoring prowess the Falcons need to soar in the East.