Payson High Scoring Mark Untouched After 50 Years

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As a skilled, veteran athlete, Ronnie McDaniel understands the ages-old adage, "sports records are made to be broken," is true.

Knowing that, he is amazed when he gazes at the boys basketball record board in Wilson Dome and sees a mark he set 50 years ago is still intact.

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Ronnie McDaniel (center, with ball) set a Payson High School single-game scoring mark that has lasted for 50 years. The mark of 48 points was set against Paradise Valley.

McDaniel set the record -- for most points in a single game (48) --n 1958 as a senior on the Longhorn basketball team.

Playing Paradise Valley High School in tiny Julia Randall gymnasium, McDaniel heated up the nets with a variety of deadly jump shots and a few easy lay ups off fast breaks.

What renders the record even more impressive than it's longevity is that it was set before the three-point line was added to high school basketball.

Had the 19-foot, 9-inch arc been in use then, McDaniel might have scored close to 60 points.

"There were some of my shots that were from that far out," he said. "We'd run a lot, then pull up and shoot the jumpers."

At 5-foot, 9-inches, McDaniel had to rely on his quickness, jumping ability and often, the friendly confines, of Julia Randall gym to excel.

"The gym was so small that people sitting on the sides often had their feet on the court," he said. "Because of that, I was able to use the sidelines to dribble up court, usually left-handed, without worrying about the ball getting stolen."

McDaniel also remembers that he often found himself driving the middle where opposing forwards and centers were both taller and heavier.

"I found out by going inside, those big guys could kill you," he said. "So, I developed a hook shoot and some bank shots."

Today, the hook shot that McDaniel found effective down low is almost nonexistent.

"It's been a long time since anyone has effectively used them," Longhorn coach Kenny Hayes said.

Following McDaniel's record-setting feat, Longhorn coach Steve Hudson said he believed McDaniel was good enough to someday excel at the next level.

"In think he'll prove there is still room for the little man in college basketball," the coach said.

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Ronnie McDaniel goes up for a layup in Julia Randall gymnasium.

McDaniel's record-setting feat also drew the attention of the big city media.

Arizona Republic sports writer Jerry Eaton wrote in his column, "Twenty-point scoring is merely a warm up for Ronnie McDaniel, a speedy 5-foot, 9-inch senior on Payson High School's basketball team."

Eaton also praised his contributions to the team. "Because McDaniel thrives on accelerated point making, the Longhorns have managed to stay above the .500 mark as a new member of the Class B West," he wrote in his column.

McDaniel's 48-point outburst against Paradise Valley was only one of many offensive onslaughts he recorded that season.

Against Antelope, he scored 40 and a few days later posted 35 in a win over Maricopa. Against Bagdad, McDaniel scored 32 points.

The team's winning record, which McDaniel helped fuel, was also a head turner, mostly because Payson High was a tiny school with not much of an athletic tradition.

"We had only seven players on our varsity team and only eight (students) in my graduating class," McDaniel said. "We had no football and the baseball was just getting started.

After graduating from high school, McDaniel watched with interest as several players who followed him challenged the scoring mark.

"I was always hoping someone I knew would break it," he said. "I thought (John) Chilson might do it, maybe one of the Pettets (Jeff and Teddy) or my own son (Tony)."

But in all the scoring onslaughts by a long list of talented Longhorn basketball players, none was able to reach or break McDaniel's record.

With his high school sports career at an end, McDaniel worked in the construction industry, then took up the rugged life of a rodeo cowboy.

Because of an interest in law enforcement, McDaniel later took a job as a Gila County sheriff's deputy and rose to the rank of major before retiring in 1986.

After stepping down, he was elected Payson's Justice of the Peace and held that position until retiring in 2004.

In retirement, he remains close to the PHS basketball program.

He seldom misses one of the Lady Longhorn games, his granddaughter Brittney is a varsity team member, and he's become a solid fan of the defending state runner-up boys team that is currently state ranked.

For the mark McDaniel set a half century ago, he'll be honored Jan. 25 just prior to the Longhorns tip off against Round Valley in Wilson Dome.

McDaniel is not quite sure what to make of the upcoming ceremony.

"I was kind of hoping they'd forget about it (the record)," he said. "But, I guess they haven't."

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