The Longhorn boys basketball team is celebrating its hard-earned state tournament berth but won’t know its seed or first round opponent until later today, Feb. 17.
The indecision is due to an investigation the Arizona Interscholastic Association is conducting against the Globe Tigers possible use of an ineligible player. The Roundup will post the Longhorns’ first round opponent on our Web site, payson.com, as soon as it becomes available.
The outcome of the investigation, which will be announced this afternoon, could affect power point standings and how 3A teams are seeded into state, especially those who played Globe this season.
Before the situation in Globe arose, the Horns were ranked seventh in power points with a 14-5 regular season record.
Globe was rated fourth, sporting a 15-4 record.
In the regular season, the Horns lost to Globe, but just how that defeat will affect the power points is not yet known.
With the AIA investigating, the 16 state qualifying teams from around the state are on hold until officials sort out the eligibility mess.
At first glance, the problem is similar to what happened to the Lady Longhorns two years ago when Alchesay transfer Rhea Cosay was ruled ineligible for violating the domicile rule.
Payson, which had won the East Region tournament and regular season title, was eventually disqualified from the state tournament sending shock waves through the school and community.
The upcoming state tournament tips off at 7 p.m., Feb. 21 with eight first-round games to be played around the state at the site of the highest seed.
Payson will have one of those seeds and will host a game in Wilson Dome.
If the Horns win that game, they would host another state clash at 7 p.m., Feb. 27.
Whatever unfolds in the AIA investigation, the Horns are assured of advancing to state as the East Region regular season and tournament champions.
Payson won the regular season title with a 9-1 record losing only to Snowflake.
That first place showing earned PHS a berth into the regional tournament championship, which was played Feb. 14 in Whiteriver.
The Horns prepared for the gold medal game expecting to play regular season runner-up Snowflake but the Lobos were eliminated from the tournament a day earlier by a semifinal loss to Round Valley.
Pitted against the Elks in the tournament finale, the Horns parlayed rock-solid defense, especially in the third quarter, into a 53-47 victory.
Leading 21-18 at halftime, the Horns held the Elks to just three points in the third quarter to take a 32-21 lead.
Although RV outscored Payson 26-21 in the frantic fourth quarter, the Elk surge wasn’t enough to wipe out the lead PHS had built.
Offensively, the Horns struggled from the field hitting only 36 percent. Payson, however, was dead-on from the free-throw line cashing in on 23 of 28 attempts.
Cody York, the East Region’s leading scorer, was 8-for-8 from the line on his way to a game-high 15 points.
The only other PHS player to score in double digits, Cody Waterman, finished with 11 points, including 6-of-8 from the free-throw line.
Dakota Marshall, Tyler Savage and Matt Wilson all tallied six points each.
In the battle of the board, York was credited with nine retrieves and Marshall had six.
With the win, the Horns are 18-10 overall and hoping to improve on the last season’s state runner-up finish.
The team the Horns must get by to win the school’s second state basketball title is top-ranked Estrella Foothills.
In the regular season, EF beat Payson 92-52.