Chino Valley and Globe are wallowing in similar hardwood hurts — both inflicted by a Longhorn basketball team determined to improve upon a lackluster showing in a season-opening 66-39 loss to the Winslow Bulldogs.
Following that humbling defeat in Winslow, first-year coach Jared Swanson challenged his players saying, “I expect a lot more out of these guys and I know they do to.”
Team members responded to the expectations Nov. 30 by defeating Globe 49-38, and a day later by ambushing Chino Valley 49-32. Both PHS victories were scored in Wilson Dome.
Against Chino Valley, the Longhorns fell behind 17-12 in the first quarter, but outscored CV 11-7 in the second stanza to take a 28-24 lead.
In the final half, Payson’s defense held the Cougars to a mere eight points as the Horns cruise controlled to the win.
“We started the game slow and we put ourselves in a hole very quickly,” Swanson said. “The guys played much harder on the defensive end in the second half.”
The coach continued to praise the team saying, “I am very happy with the guys’ efforts on defense, but we still know that we need to improve as the season goes on.”
Individually, senior Dakota Marshall turned in the finest game of his career with 18 points and 15 rebounds.
“Dakota played a monster game down low,” Swanson said. “Chino did not have a player who could play the 6-foot-5-inch (Marshall) down low.”
Swanson said. “We will need him to play with that aggression all season.”
Ever Figueroa was at the top of his game contributing 10 points, seven rebounds and was a sterling 8-for-8 from the free-throw line.
“Ever did a great job of running the show from his point guard position,” Swanson said.
Fueled by Figueroa’s efforts as floor general Payson committed a reasonable 15 turnovers, seven less than Chino Valley.
While Swanson won’t be happy with double-digit turnovers down the road, 15 is not a bad mark for an early season game.
Cody Waterman was also solid in the victory with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“Cody did not have the scoring game he had the previous night (vs. Globe) but his rebounding efforts (five offensive rebounds) showed everyone he is not just a scorer.”
If there was a statistic emerging from the game that would bring a smile to a coach’s face, it was free throws — the Horns sank 88 percent of their attempts (21 for 24).
“I am very pleased with our free-throw shooting, considering up at Winslow we were a lousy eight for 24, Swanson said.
The Horns turned in an exceptional effort on the boards, out-rebounding the Cougars 41-23.
Strong first- and fourth-quarter showings sandwiched around mediocre performances in the middle two stanzas was enough to earn the Longhorn boys basketball team the 11-point win over the Globe Tigers.
Early in the game, Swanson saw his Horns jump out to a 12-4 lead, but then have the cushion evaporate as Globe closed to within 24-20 at halftime.
“Globe fought back hard in the quarter, hitting four three-pointers to close the gap,” Swanson said
At the onset of the fourth quarter, the Tigers clawed to within 31-30 only to have Waterman put the game on ice with 12 fourth quarter points that included 6-for-8 free throw shooting.
Waterman finished as the game’s leading scorer with 22 points.
As a team, “the Longhorns outscored the Tigers 18-8 in the final quarter,” said Swanson.
Much of the credit for the victory can be attributed to the Horns sharpshooting at the free-throw line and the Tigers’ inability to cash in on the freebies.
The Horns were successful on 19 of their 25 attempts (76 percent) while Globe was 0 for 5.
Payson also out-rebounded the Copper City visitors, 40-30, and won the all important turnover battle committing 12 less than the Tigers.
But with 46 miscues committed, the clash wasn’t exactly a display of finely tuned basketball.
In addition to Waterman leading the team in scoring, he corralled 10 rebounds.
Marshall tallied eight points and finished the evening with a team-high 12 rebounds.
Andrew Curiel scored eight points and had five rebounds.
Figueroa dished out five assists to go along with his five rebounds and five points.
For Globe, Billy Kidd had 16 points and Israel Hill scored nine on a trio of three pointers.
Swanson said, “We played very well in spurts — if we can put together a full game of high intensity and hard work, we will be a much more solid basketball team.”
The coach, who formerly played professionally in Australia, praised the players for “doing a good job of understanding their individual roles.”
He, however, offers a few words of caution, “We need to continue to make steps forward in order to improve as the season goes on.”
The Horns returned to play yesterday, Dec. 3, in the Winslow Bulldog Invitational. Games continued through today before wrapping up Saturday. “We will see some more really good teams up there, so we’ll have to be ready to play, both physically and mentally,” Swanson said.