The Lady Longhorn express continues to steam toward what could be the school’s first girls state basketball championship.
The next refueling stop is 7 p.m. Feb. 28 in Wilson Dome where third-seeded Payson takes on No. 6 Monument Valley in a state tournament second-round game. MV advances to the second round by virtue of a 60-42 win over No. 11 Coolidge.
Although the two teams are aligned in different regions — Payson in the East and MV in the basketball crazed North — the squads are no strangers to one another. They met earlier in the year, at the Winslow Winter Classic, with the Lady Horns taking a 53-48 victory.
In that win, senior point guard Cydney Figueroa had one of her better offensive outings of the season, scoring a game-high 17 points. Christina Deaton had 14.
If the Lady Horns can get past MV, the team would advance for the first time in school history to the tournament’s final four. Those games will be played March 6 at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale. The state championship is set for 8 p.m. the following day, also at Jobing.com Arena.
The Horns reached the second round by whipping 14th-seeded Tuba City 35-33 on Feb. 20 in Wilson Dome.
Although coach Stacy Anderson was elated with the win, she was a bit puzzled by the rough and tumble type of play.
“The game was definitely one of the more physical games we have played all year,” she said. “They let a lot of stuff go, both ways.”
Although Payson entered the tournament with a much higher seed (No. 3) than the Warriors, TC gave the Lady Horns all the fight they could handle.
Anderson attributes the low-scoring game to the team having “a difficult time getting going on the offensive end.”
Among the reasons for the team’s struggles on “O” were miscues under the relentless pressure of the Warrior defense.
“We need to cut back on our turnovers,” Anderson said.
The coach was, however, pleased with the team’s defensive effort and rebounding.
“We did a good job of controlling the boards throughout the game,” she said. “And I felt our girls played very well defensively.”
Senior Kayla Morgan led the Lady Horn scoring parade with 11 points. Christina Deaton, who is Payson’s scoring leader, averaging 12.1 ppg, was held to nine points.
In taking on Monument Valley in the second round, the Lady Horns will be facing a team similar to TC in that both play quick, reservation-style basketball.
“I am sure it will be a great game,” Anderson said. “We won earlier in the season, but I am sure they have improved, and so have we.”
With the win over TC, the Lady Horns improve to 24-6 overall and 11-2 in Wilson Dome.
More state openers
In other state tournament first-round games, coach Don Petronavich’s top-rated Winslow Bulldogs bit, chewed and clawed No. 16 Snowflake 98-34.
In Window Rock, No. 8 Window Rock edged No. 9 Sedona 54-42, and in Whiteriver, Alchesay pounded Ganado 52-35. Alchesay entered as a five seed, and Ganado was No. 12.
Highly regarded Safford (No. 4) ran past No. 13 South Pointe, 65-53, and Chinle (No. 7) caged the Coolidge Bears 60-42. Coolidge took an 11-seed into the tournament. Maricopa, the tournament’s two-seed, is projected to make a run at the state title but barely got past No. 15 Estrella Foothills, 56-53.