A 79-32 pounding of San Tan Foothills sets the stage for the Longhorn boys basketball team (8-7) to travel today (Jan. 9) to Show Low where the East Region campaign tips off.
While the first part of the season featured 14 non-region and tournament games that had no bearing on the postseason, every game now carries huge consequences, because the results will be used to seed teams into regional and state tournaments.
Against San Tan, a newly-built school in the East Valley, the Horns ran roughshod, jumping out to an early 18-3 lead and then coasting to victory.
As a first-year school, San Tan didn’t have the athletes or experience to stay in contention with the state fourth-ranked Horns who have been back-to-back state runners-up.
With second-year head coach Kenny Hayes substituting freely after the Horns posted the early lead, 11 of the 13 players on the varsity roster broke into the scoring column.
Senior Cody York, the East’s fifth leading scorer at 11.7 ppg, paced the Horns with a game-high 15 points.
He also corralled seven rebounds and dished out two assists.
Matt Wilson, a 6-foot-6-inch post player, banged his way inside for 14 points and five rebounds.
Dakota Marshal finished with 10 points and Tyler Savage and Ryan Hintze contributed seven each.
Hintze was also a force on the boards, corralling 10 rebounds.
Against the Cats
In Show Low, the Horns face a 6-11 Cougar team that is led offensively by Cameron Jacobs, the East’s leading scorer (20.3 ppg).
Show Low also has an accurate long-range shooter in senior Brian Bowman and a standout freshman performer in Josh Weeks. Despite his youth, the frosh is being touted around the region as a good rebounder and defender.
Payson will counter the green and gold with York, Savage (9.2 ppg), Wilson (7.9 ppg) and Cody Waterman (6.3).
While those four have paced the Horns offensively, it is the Horns defense that troubles Hayes.
During a holiday tournament at Bradshaw Mountain, Hayes rotated players in and out saying he was “looking for those who can play defense.”
Since he first came on board at PHS five years ago as a freshman coach, Hayes has stressed the fundamentals of man-to-man defensive principles with a few zones and traps mixed in.
In early season games, senior point guard Shane Keith has played the role of floor general, dishing out 50 assists.
He is also charged with bringing the ball up court against pressure defenses.
Savage leads the team in rebounding with 70 and Wilson has proven to be a defensive force at the low post with a team-high nine blocks.
York leads the Horns in steals with 36.