Big-city pollsters were dead wrong all season long when they ranked the Wickenburg Wranglers football team ahead of the Payson Longhorns.
Could they again be off target in not ranking the Lady Longhorn basketball team?
There are those in the Rim Country arguing the pollsters are off beam mostly because the Lady Longhorns have all their starters returning from last season’s 22-8 team.
“We have a very strong class of seniors returning to the court,” coach Stacy Anderson said. “They are Cydney Figueroa, Christina Deaton, Jenna Robertson, Kayla Morgan, Marquel Waterman and Shelby Hill, who is coming back from an injury.”
At the conclusion of last season, Deaton, Figueroa and Morgan were named to the 12-player All-East Region first team. Robertson was tapped honorable mention.
Deaton was also chosen to the 3A Arizona All-State girls team.
The 6-foot-2-inch forward-center led the Lady Horns in scoring, averaging 12 ppg. Deaton also averaged seven rebounds per game, doled out 22 assists, had 20 steals and blocked an East Region-high 87 shots.
Figueroa, who will be playing varsity point guard for the third season, engineers the Lady Longhorn offense handling most of the playmaking duties. Last season she averaged 10 ppg and was often paired defensively against the opposition’s best guard.
Morgan teams with Deaton to give the Lady Horns one of the best low-post combos in the East. Morgan will be looking to improve on her 9.9 points and seven rebounds per game averages of last season.
Robertson, a three-sport star at PHS, is capable of playing about every position on the floor, but sometimes is best in the low blocks as evidenced by her 9.9 rebounds per game in 2007-2008.
She also is a solid offensive threat and an adept defender.
Last season, she averaged 7.4 points per game and blocked 27 shots.
A real plus for the senior group is that some of them have been playing together since they were in eighth-grade and traveled to Hawaii for a tournament.
Joining the nucleus of returnees is Candice Ayers, a senior who played well this fall on the Lady Longhorn volleyball team.
Also, Rylee Halenar and Holly West could see action on the varsity level.
Anderson predicts the strength of the team will be the “quality, experienced players, but we need to work out some timing issues.
“We have only been practicing for a short time.”
Anderson had her first opportunity to evaluate the players in game-like conditions Nov. 20 in a preseason scrimmage against Camp Verde.
“I think the scrimmage served its purpose. It allowed the girls and myself to see what is working well and maybe what we need to spend a little more time on in practice.”
Anderson returns as the head coach after taking over the reigns in January of 2007 due to the sudden resignation of former coach Grant Coley.
At the time she stepped aboard, the girls were floundering in East play with a 2-2 record. She led the team to a seven-game winning streak that culminated with a tie for the East Region regular season title.
Winslow on top
As talented as the Lady Horns appear to be, the top notches in a state preseason prep poll announced Nov. 22 in The Arizona Republic went to No. 1-ranked Winslow and No. 2 Monument Valley. Alchesay, an East Region member, is third, Window Rock fourth and Ganado fifth.
Which means, all top-five spots went to Northern Arizona reservation-area teams.
Because the Lady Longhorns’ regular season kicked off earlier than usual — last night, Nov. 24, against Holbrook — Anderson is now scrambling to find much-needed practice time.
“We are off and running this week and then we have Thanksgiving break followed by another game,” she said. “So we definitely have our work cut out for us.”
The Lady Horns play today, Nov. 25, at Scottsdale Christian. Game time is 7 p.m.