A 57-51 East Region tournament victory over Alchesay sends the Lady Longhorns into the 3A state tournament with an advantageous No. 3 seed.
With the high seed the Lady Horns are placed in an eight-team bracket where they will not have to play top-ranked Winslow until the state championship, if Payson makes it that far.
Earlier this season, the Lady Bulldogs showed just how good they are, whipping Payson 60-33.
For the Lady Horns, the state tournament tips off at 7 p.m., Feb. 20 in Wilson Dome against 14th-seeded Tuba City. In all, seven other first round games will be played around the state at the site of the highest seed.
Second round games are set for 7 p.m., Feb. 28 also at the site of the highest seed.
The tournament moves March 6 to Jobing.com arena in Glendale for tournament semifinal games.
The state championship is on tap for 8 p.m., March 7 at Jobing.com. That game will be televised throughout the Valley on Cox Sports Network.
In the almost 40-plus year history of the program, the Lady Horns have turned out many accomplished teams, but none has ever reached the final four.
This year’s team, however, appears to have a legitimate shot at breaking that spell if it can whip Tuba City and possibly No. 6 Monument Valley — a team that is aligned in the same bracket with Payson.
Looking ahead, wins over TC and Monument Valley could send the Lady Horns into the state semifinals, possibly against No. 2-seeded Maricopa.
The Lady Horns advance to state as the East Region regular season co-champion and tournament champs.
Payson and Alchesay tied for the regular season crown with identical 9-1 records.
For the East tournament, which was played Feb. 10 to 14 in Whiteriver, Payson received the top seed because it had more power points than Alchesay.
The top seed resulted in the Lady Horns receiving byes into the championship finale, which was played Saturday in front of an estimated 4,000 raucous fans.
In that clash, Payson held off a late Alchesay run to win the six-point decision.
In the regular season, the Lady Horns and Falcons split their two games each winning at home.