The challenge of being the first team in Lady Longhorn basketball history to reach the state tournament’s final four will now be passed on to another team.
The 2008-2009 team, which entered the tournament with a lofty No. 3 seed, came up one game short of reaching its semifinal goal with a gut-wrenching 47-46 loss to Monument Valley.
The state wound was inflicted Feb. 28 in Wilson Dome before a crowd of about 1,500 pro-Mustangs fans who followed their team to Payson from Kayenta.
The loss ended a season in which the Lady Longhorns posted a 24-7 record and won the East Region regular season and tournament championships.
The loss to MV was also an upset of sorts considering the Lady Horns were the higher seed, had lost only once this season in Wilson Dome and had beaten the Mustangs 53-48 on Dec. 20 in the Winslow Winter Classic.
The defeat also ended the season for five seniors who had played together since elementary school and formed one of the most talented groups to ever don Lady Horn uniforms.
They included point guard Cydney Figueroa, shooting guard Marquel Waterman and forward/centers Christina Deaton, Kayla Morgan and Jenna Robertson.
When the five were in eighth-grade, then-Lady Longhorn coach Rory Huff boldly predicted the group had enough talent to make the varsity team as freshmen.
They did and the group went on to form the nucleus of the team for four years.
During the past season, Deaton was the team’s go-to player averaging 12.1 ppg. Robertson (9 ppg), Figueroa (7.7 ppg), Morgan (7.4 ppg) and Waterman (5.1 ppg) were also offensive threats throughout the campaign.
Figueroa led the team in assists (101) and steals (64). Robertson was the leading rebounder (258) and Deaton was the defensive leader with 73 blocks.
Waterman became the team’s long-range threat hitting 26 of 71 attempts from three-point range.
Also on the team as seniors were Rose Hardt, Shelby Hill and Candice Ayers.
The highlight of the season was a 12-game winning streak that began Jan. 3 and continued until Feb. 6 when the Lady Horns lost 58-42 to Alchesay.
The team, led by its eight seniors, will gather one final time for the season-ending awards ceremony. The date and place will be announced later this week.