If there is a certainty in tomorrow’s Feb. 28 state second-round playoff game between Payson and Monument Valley, it is that hordes of reservation-area fans will show up in Wilson Dome to support their beloved Mustangs.
Traveling long distances to support their prep hoop teams has long been a tradition in the basketball-crazed 3A North region, where the Mustangs are corralled.
MV entered the tournament as a No. 6 seed and the regular season North region fourth-place finisher with a 7-6 record (16-9 overall).
The Mustangs advanced to the second-round game against Payson with a 60-42 win over No. 11 Coolidge.
The Lady Horns, the East region regular season and tournament champions, took a No. 3 seed to state and defeated No. 14 Tuba City by a scant two points in the opener Feb. 20 in Wilson Dome.
If Payson can slip past MV, the Lady Horns will advance to the final four for the first time in school history. That semifinal game would be played at 2:30 p.m. March 6 in Jobing.com Arena in Glendale.
Offense a priority
For the Lady Horns to set school history, they must jump-start an offense that was mostly stagnant in the team’s two-point win over Tuba City.
To get the “O” on track, teammates will need to cut down on their turnovers and get the ball down low to 6-foot Christina Deaton, the team’s leading scorer with a 12.1 ppg average.
If Deaton has the ball in the low blocks, it usually takes double or triple teams to successfully defend her.
Also, the offense must receive boosts from Jenna Robertson (9 ppg) and Kayla Morgan (7.4 ppg).
The player responsible for engineering the PHS offense is senior point guard Cydney Figueroa who is a capable floor general and can score when called upon, as evidenced by her 7.7 ppg and 42 percent scoring from the field.
Marquel Waterman is the Lady Horns’ best threat from beyond the three-point line. One of her finest performances was turned in Feb. 14 in Payson’s 57-51 win over Alchesay in Whiteriver.
She finished the game as the team’s high point scorer with 19 points that included 4-of-7 shooting from the three-point line and 5-of-6 free throw accuracy.
Rose Hardt contributes 3.2 ppg and has hauled in 98 rebounds.
More state games
In other second-round games around the state, No. 1 Winslow hosts No. 8 Window Rock and No. 5 Alchesay travels to No. 4 Safford.
Maricopa, a second-seeded team some predict has the talent to reach the championship game, hosts No. 7 Chinle.
All four North region teams — Winslow, Window Rock, Monument Valley and Chinle — are alive and well in the tournament.