The Lady Longhorns 46-30 upset of the Round Valley Elks has thrown the East region title chase up for grabs.
With three games remaining on the Lady Horn schedule, Payson sports a 4-3 East record (18-6 overall). That mark keeps the Lady Horns alive in the pursuit of a title along with Round Valley (5-2), Snowflake (4-2) and Alchesay (4-2).
Blue Ridge (3-4) could contend for honors with a late-season charge, but Show Low (0-7) is out of contention.
With five teams still in the championship battle, the East race is one of the tightest it's been since Payson rejoined the region three years ago after a two-year stint in the 4A conference.
If the Lady Horns can emerge victorious today, Tuesday, in Lakeside against Blue Ridge and also against Alchesay, Feb. 1 and Snowflake, Feb. 2, PHS would finish 7-3 in the East. That mark might be good enough for at least a tie for the region championship.
In whipping Round Valley Jan. 25 in Wilson Dome, the Lady Horns thrived at the defensive end of the court.
"We definitely have stepped it up defensively," coach Stacy Anderson said. "Hopefully the girls can keep it up the remainder of the season."
The game, which marked the third time the two longtime rivals have met this season, turned ugly at the midway point when Round Valley's Ashley Slade and Payson's Christina Deaton locked up in an altercation.
Eventually, order was restored but Arizona Interscholastic Association rules required Slade and Deaton to sit out their team's next regularly scheduled game.
Which meant, Deaton did not play Jan. 26 in the Lady Horns 42-28 win over homestanding Estrella Foothills.
In defeating Round Valley, Kayla Morgan dominated down low, scoring 13 points, corralling nine rebounds and dishing out four assists.
Marquel Waterman hit three-of-eight three-point attempts and finished with 11 points.
Jenna Robertson tallied eight points, had six rebounds, two steals and an assist.
In Payson's win over Estrella, the Lady Horns opened a 13-9 early lead and pushed it to 22-13 at halftime. In the second half, PHS outscored EF 20-15 as Anderson emptied her bench.
Junior point guard Cydney Figueroa dominated offensively with 14 points and seven assists. Morgan and Robertson finished with nine points each.
The win kept alive a modest three-game winning streak for the Lady Longhorns who are 3-1 since Anderson took over the coaching reins Jan. 17 from former coach Grant Coley.