Any doubts the 3A North is the most competitive basketball region in the state should have been erased early this week when the Arizona Interscholastic Association announced the 16 teams that earned berths in the state tournament.
The North had six of its seven teams qualify while the East, which has been down the last couple of years, had only three teams advance.
Teams earn seeds to the state tournament on power points, which includes strength of schedule as one of the awarding factors
Which means Tuba City, the Lady Longhorns’ state, first-round opponent this evening, received a No. 14 seed despite compiling a mediocre 12-12 record and finishing next to last in the final North Region standings with a 4-8 mark.
The North’s other qualifiers are Winslow (No. 1), Window Rock (No. 4), Monument Valley (No. 6) and Chinle (No. 7).\
The East is sending Payson (No. 3), Alchesay (No. 5) and Snowflake (No. 16).
State first round games tip off at 7 p.m. Feb. 20 at the site of the highest seed.
Second round games are scheduled for Feb. 28 also at the site of the highest seed.
Which means, if the Lady Horns (22-6) can get past Tuba City in the first round, the team would probably travel to faraway Monument Valley for a second-round clash.
Playing in the mammoth Kayenta Student Activity Center in front of throngs of MV fans can be intimidating for off-reservation teams.
But the Lady Horns proved Feb. 14 in Whiteriver that they can handle that type of pressure by beating Alchesay before 4,000 of the school’s students and boosters.
Looking for first championship
The Lady Horns open pursuit of Payson’s first state girls basketball title as East Region regular season co-champs, along with Alchesay, and as the East tournament champions.
Lady Horn coach Stacy Anderson said at midweek she knew little about Tuba City, but was in possession a film she would soon break down.
On the Warriors’ roster is freshman Jamie Roe who has built a reputation, despite her youth, as being a solid defender and rebounder.
Senior Stephanie Yazzie is also touted as a strong defensive player.
Payson will counter with a lineup led by Christina Deaton, the East Region’s fourth leading scorer at 12.1 ppg.
Jenna Robertson leads the Horns on the boards averaging 8.9 rebounds per game and Cydney Figueroa is the floor general with 101 assists.
If the Lady Horns have an advantage over the running and gunning Warriors, it will be their size.
All season long, Kayla Morgan, Deaton and Robertson have dominated in the paint and the Warriors might have trouble countering the trio’s inside game.
State semifinal games are scheduled for March 6 at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale. Also at Jobing.com, the state championship will be played at 6 p.m., March 7.