Keeping its region record unblemished will be the goal of the Longhorn boys basketball team when the squad plays host tonight, Jan. 20, to the Alchesay Falcons.
The Falcons enter the game 8-9 overall and 2-1 in the East, but armed with a reservation-style run and gun offense and a pressing defense that could give the Longhorns (11-9 overall, 3-0 in the East) trouble.
Payson and Alchesay have a long history of dueling it out for region honors, and the two were projected to again this season battle for the East title.
But Alchesay’s luster faded a bit Jan. 9 when the Falcons dropped a 68-66 decision to homestanding Blue Ridge.
With that loss, the Longhorns became the East’s only unbeaten team, and favorites to win their second successive region championship.
If comparative scores mean something, which they sometimes don’t, Payson faced on Jan. 16 in Lakeside that same BR team that beat the Falcons. The Horns took a relatively easy 64-49 victory.
In the win, the Longhorns had one of their better shooting nights, sinking 53 percent of their attempts.
In the past few games leading up to the win over BR, the Horns had been struggling with their shooting, which coach Kenny Hayes attributed to poor shot selection, and attempts that simply wouldn’t fall.
“There are nights like that,” he said.
As a team, the Horns are now shooting a decent 47 percent from the field.
Against the Yellow Jackets, senior forward/center Matt Wilson turned in one of his better evenings, scoring a game-high 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting. He was 2-of-3 from the line. Wilson also corralled three rebounds and blocked two shots.
Dakota Marshall had 10 points and Jeff Day and Shane Keith finished with nine each.
The team’s leading scorer, Cody York struggled with just eight points.
The day prior to the win over Blue Ridge, Payson dropped a nonregion showdown, 84-71 in overtime, to Scottsdale Christian Academy (15-1).
In the extra period, the Horns were outscored 20-8 thanks in part to the trio of Bo Barnes, Jake Cipolletti and Hayden Johnson. The three combined to score 55 of the team’s 84 points.
Although SCA was out rebounded by the Horns, 36-22, the Valley crew compensated by dishing out 22 assists and blocking seven shots, four by Johnson.
York led all Payson scorers with 15. Keith had 14 and Tyler Savage 11.
Game time this evening is 7:30 p.m.