The Payson Lady Longhorns have taken over sole possession of first place in the 3A East Region with a come-from-behind 52-45 victory over the Alchesay Falcons.
The victory, chalked up Jan. 20 in Wilson Dome, also gives the Lady Horns (16-5; 4-0) the inside track to the regular season championship with six games remaining on the schedule.
Entering the crucial showdown, Alchesay (17-4; 3-1) and Payson were tied for the East lead and generally regarded as the two finest squads in the region, if not the 3A conference.
“They are definitely a good team and it was a big win for us,” coach Stacy Anderson said.
The Falcons were slowed a bit by nagging injuries to two of the team’s finest players — Marie Lupe and Noel Hinton.
While the two Falcon stars did start, both played limited minutes in the second half.
The Lady Horns, who were at full strength, fell behind 13-10 before Anderson made strategy changes to better challenge the Falcon sharpshooters.
“We struggled the first quarter but switching defenses seemed to help,” Anderson said.
At halftime, the Falcons held a 24-23 lead but by the time the fourth quarter clock began ticking down, the Lady Horns had forged out a narrow 32-31 cushion.
“Once the girls settled down and got rid of the nerves, they started to play better basketball,” Anderson said.
In the final going, the Lady Horns outscored the Falcons 20-14 to win going away.
“I am very happy to see the girls stay focused down the stretch and finish the way they did,” Anderson said.
Senior Christina Deaton supplied much of the Lady Horns’ firepower scoring a game-high 17 points. She also led the team in rebounding, corralling nine missed shots. Marquel Waterman and Kayla Morgan contributed 10 points each.
Morgan also had five rebounds.
Cydney Figueroa led in assists with seven.
As a team, Payson shined defensively with 15 steals which is quite unusual against a reservation school where players are well-versed in passing and dribbling skills.
With the win, the Lady Horns will try to remain unbeaten when they travel Jan. 23 to Snowflake for a 6 p.m. game.
Playing in Lobo land is never an easy task for any visitor, but Snowflake doesn’t seem to have the thoroughbreds they’ve had in the past as evidenced by a 5-8 record and an earlier season loss to Alchesay, 69-30.