The 1952 western film “High Noon,” tells the story of longtime Marshal Will Kane — played by Gary Cooper — taking to the Hadleyville, New Mexico dirt streets to square off against a band of rivals.
Frequent shots of various clocks with the hands approaching noon — time for the gunfight — heighten the anxiety for moviegoers.
Much like in the film, today, Jan. 20, might be “High Noon” for the Lady Longhorns basketball team. But not on dirt streets, rather on the Wilson Dome hardwood floor against the Alchesay Falcons.
And not at noon, it’s at 6 p.m.
The hoop clash is expected to feature similar nail-biting tensions as Gary Cooper’s emotional shootout did, mostly because much is at stake for both the Lady Horns and Falcons.
Payson enters the game with a 15-5 overall record and on a six-game winning streak.
The Falcons are 17-3 overall but, most importantly, the two teams are 3-0 in East play and tied for first.
Which means, the winner of tonight’s game takes over sole possession of first place, and has the inside track to winning the East crown.
The outcome might be more crucial to the Lady Horns because it is a home game and the team needs to protect its home court.
Basketball strategy in the East, whether it is boys or girls, has long been to hold serve at home and then sneak in as many victories as possible or the road where “Ws” can be hard to come by.
If the Lady Horns lose tonight, they face a doubly tough task when they travel Feb. 6 to Alchesay, where the most intimidating home floor advantage in the East exists.
There, thousands of rabid reservation fans show up to hoot, holler and back their beloved Falcons much like Cardinal boosters filled University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday for Arizona’s NFC win over Philadelphia.
Adding even more importance to tonight’s game is that the East is noticeably weak this season, with most teams struggling to reach even the break-even mark.
Whichever team loses tonight, Alchesay or Payson, they probably can’t expect any help down the schedule road.
The East title chase this year is simple — it’s been reduced down to Payson vs. Alchesay along with four other pretenders who have little hope of finishing in the top two or beating the region leaders. They are Snowflake (5-8), Round Valley (6-14), Blue Ridge (4-14) and Show Low (2-12).
Against the East this season, Payson has been virtually unstoppable, steamrolling Show Low 72-42, Round Valley 52-34 and Blue Ridge 51-32.
Alchesay will be paced tonight by its big three of Noel Hinton, Marie Lupe and Quintana Ada who are among the league leaders in scoring, rebounding, steals and assists.
The Lady Horns will counter with a veteran group of seniors including Christina Deaton, Jenna Robertson, Cydney Figueroa and Kayla Morgan.