Doubts no longer linger about which 3A East team is the region’s finest.
It’s the Longhorns, hooves down.
Payson (12-9; 4-0) proved it was top canine in the East junkyard dogfight on Jan. 20 in Wilson Dome with an 87-71 victory over the Alchesay Falcons.
With the win, Payson is all alone in first place in the East standings and the Falcons are second.
The two league leaders meet once again Feb. 6 in Whiteriver, but even with the Falcons playing at home, the team doesn’t appear to have the horses to race with the Horn thoroughbreds.
In Tuesday’s game, Alchesay was the equal of the Horns only in the opening quarter tying the score 15-15.
The second stanza proved to be all Payson as the Horns outscored the Falcons by 15 points to take a 39-24 halftime lead.
In the second half, Alchesay churned out a mild comeback to pull within 51-41 before the Horns closed with a rally.
Cody York, one of the region’s top-five scorers, heated up the nets for a game-high 24 points that included two three-pointers.
Cody Waterman contributed 13 points and Dakota Marshal had 12.
Ever Figueroa, Shane Keith and Tyler Savage all had 10 points each.
Savage was also a beast on the boards with 10 rebounds and some good defensive work.
Oddly enough, Savage — a senior and one of the finest all-around athletes in the school — does not normally start.
“That’s because I like his energy coming off the bench, he really gives us a boost,” coach Kenny Hayes said.
Figueroa and Keith, two of the finest set up players in the East, led the floor game. Figueroa finished with seven assists and Keith had six.
Both are ranked among the region’s top five in assists.
If the Longhorns showed a malfunction they will want to overhaul before postseason play begins, it’s those dreaded turnovers.
Coughing up the ball without a shot is one of basketball’s deadly sins.
Against Alchesay, the team committed a whopping 33 miscues, which obviously had Hayes searching for answers.
“It’s bad decisions — we have to stop those,” he said.
With the win in the rearview mirror and the perfect East record in the ball bag, the Horns motor down the schedule highway to a Jan. 23 game at Snowflake.
There, Hayes is expecting another strong challenge from the Lobos.
“They always match up well with us,” he said.
Game time is 7:30 p.m.