After tying Alchesay for the East Region regular season championship, the Lady Longhorns appear destined to once again play the Falcons for the regional tournament crown.
That game will be 5 p.m. tomorrow, Feb. 14.
The bad news for Payson in that scenario is the clash will be played in Whiteriver, where Alchesay is doubly tough to beat mostly due to the presence of about 5,000 fervent Falcon fans.
The key to a Payson tournament win will be for the team members to rid themselves of the jitters early and build a quick lead to keep the vocal Alchesay fans out of the game.
Whiteriver has long been a hotbed of basketball and their fans love to fill the gym to capacity intimidating visiting opponents with chants, cheers and standing ovations.
Make no mistake about it, Alchesay fans are a valuable sixth player whose presence has sent foes scampering home hoping to get in touch with their inner selves. Or maybe at least searching for a Buddhist temple where they refresh their bodies and souls.
Payson has been one of those victims — after beating Alchesay 52-40 Jan. 20 in Wilson Dome, the Lady Horns fell 58-42 on Feb. 6 in Whiteriver.
Payson takes No. 1 on power points
Following the regular season standings tie between Alchesay and Payson, both teams finished 9-1, the Lady Horns were awarded the regional tournament’s top seed because PHS was ranked higher in the power point standings than was Alchesay.
With the No. 1 berth the Lady Horns received byes into tomorrow’s tournament championship game.
Based on power points, Alchesay fell to No. 2 and has to work its way into the championship game with quarterfinal and semifinal games.
Lady Horn players and coach Stacy Anderson won’t know until this evening, Feb. 13 — when the semifinal game wraps up — if the Falcons have played their way into the gold medal finale.
But there’s not many in small-town Arizona who would bet against Alchesay — they’ve been one of the finest girls teams in the state all-season long.
In addition to tying Payson for the regional crown, Alchesay compiled a sterling 23-4 record and put on the court some of the region’s finest scorers and defenders including Noel Hinton (15.4 ppg), Marie Lupe (12.3 ppg) and Quintana Aday (12.3 ppg).
However, if there is a team in the state, other than No.1-ranked Winslow, who can play on even terms with the high flyin’ birds, it’s the Lady Longhorns.
The PHS attack is led by the terrific trio of Christina Deaton, Jenna Robertson and Kayla Morgan.
Deaton averages a team-high 12.2 ppg, Robertson is second at 9.2 ppg and Morgan contributes 7.7 ppg.
Deaton, who has been nominated for the McDonald’s All-American team, is more than just a scorer, she leads the team in rebounding with 177, has doled out 50 assists, recorded 40 steals and is the East leader in blocked shots with a whopping 59 rejections.
If there is an area of her game she wants to improve, it would be from the free-throw line where she is 24 of 51.
Robertson is also a well-rounded player with a team-high 234 rebounds, 57 steals, 12 blocked shots and 55 assists.
She’s particularly tenacious when she has her hands on the ball as evidenced by her 101 trips to the free-throw line.
She, however, also needs to improve her free throw accuracy having made good on less than half (41) of her attempts.
Morgan is a battler underneath just as Deaton and Robertson are.
She is third on the team in rebounding with 166, has blocked nine shots, has 32 steals and 34 assists.
The Lady Horns also feature a standout floor leader in point guard Cydney Figueroa who pulls the trigger on the offense.
No matter what the outcome of tomorrow’s championship game, the Lady Horns are headed to state with at least a No. 2 or 3 seed and possibly the best chance at reaching the final four since the 1998 team led by Amberlyn White, Stephanie Robertson, Rheanna Martinez and Erin Dahlman.
That team dominated state play, set all kinds of records that still stand, finished 23-5 but came up one game short of reaching the state semifinals.