Marquel Waterman (24) fights to maintain control of the ball against a swarm of aggressive Estrella Foothills players in the second half of play Saturday, Jan. 3 in Wilson Dome.
A 67-44 win over Estrella Foothills on Jan. 3 in Wilson Dome sets the stage for the onset of the East region season. It tips off at 6 p.m. Jan. 9 in Show Low against the Lady Cougars (2-8) who have struggled in pre-season. The Cats’ only two victories have been over Tucson Sunnyside in the Queen Creek Turkey Shoot Out, and by three points against 1A Heber Mogollon.
Individually, Show Low does not have a player ranked in the region’s top five in scoring, rebounding or assists.
In the Lady Horns’ victory over Estrella, senior point guard Cydney Figueroa turned in one of her finest offensive displays, finishing with a game-high 22 points.
Eight of those came in the first quarter, which helped Payson jump out to a 24-10 lead.
Marquel Waterman was equally hot in the first stanza with seven points. She eventually finished with 11, hitting four-of-four free throws in the remainder of the game.
Although Estrella rebounded from the slow start to pull within 34-23 at halftime, the Lady Horns steamrolled the Wolves 23-3 during a third-quarter onslaught.
Much of the inside dominance of the Lady Horns was provided by the big two of Kayla Morgan and Jenna Robertson. The duo joined forces for 17 points and a flurry of rebounds.
With the win, the Lady Horns improved to 10-4 overall.
While the victory over the Wolves looks good in the win-loss column, it might be a 57-33 loss to the powerful Winslow Bulldogs in the championship game of the Winslow Invitational that will help Payson down the schedule road.
“I think our girls gained some confidence playing in this tournament because we were able to see some good competition,” coach Stacy Anderson said. “Winslow has a good ball club and I hope we can meet up with them again.”
If Payson is to play Winslow again, the Lady Horns must toughen up their rebounding and inside play.
“Winslow ended up begin much stronger on the boards than us, which usually is our strong point,” Anderson said.
Also, the Lady Horns must find a way to be more consistent from the opening tip-off until the final gun sounds.
“I felt like we played two solid quarters of the four,” Anderson said.
In the loss, Christina Deaton led all scorers with 11 points, Morgan had seven and Robertson six.
Also in the Winslow Tournament, the Lady Horns lost 51-50 to Santa Fe, N.M. but downed Joseph City 54-21 and Monument Valley 53-48.
The one-point loss to Santa Fe might have been one of the most exciting tournament nament games as Payson scrambled back to almost win after trailing by 10 points with two minutes remaining.
Currently, Robertson is Payson’s leading scorer, averaging 10.4 points per game.
From outside the 19-foot, 9-inch arc, Waterman is Payson’s long-range bomber, having hit 10 of 24 three-point attempts.
In rebounding, Robertson is far and away the team leader, having corralled 115 missed shots.
Morgan ranks second on the team with 78 retrieves.
Figueroa has been the floor general with 40 assists. Deaton has 26 and Robertson 25. Deaton’s 30 blocked shots makes her the defensive demon.