The challenge facing the Payson High boys basketball team was daunting — five games in three days against “big school” teams, and without one of the Longhorns’ best players.
That’s the test the Horns faced when they opened play Dec. 28 in the Alvarez Tire Hoops Classic at Bradshaw Mountain High School.
“It was a great tournament to be a part of, just because there were so many teams we have not seen this season, nor that we will see later in the season,” coach Jared Swanson said. “Many of team teams were class 4A and 5A, so it was good for our guys to get a chance to play better competition.”
What hampered the Longhorns at Bradshaw was the absence of 6-foot, 5-inch Dakota Marshall, who has been the Horns’ top inside threat all season.
Marshall injured his leg earlier this season and has been wearing a walking boot for about two weeks.
He is scheduled to be re-examined early next week, and hopes are he can return by Jan. 12 to face Blue Ridge.
“We are hoping that the hairline fracture in his ankle will be close to fully healed by then,” Swanson said. “Our other guys will need to step up and play bigger roles in his absence.”
Without Marshall in the line-up at the Alvarez Classic, Swanson doled out playing time to many of his younger, untested players.
“Hopefully that experience will pay off down the road during our rugged 3A East schedule,” Swanson said.
Among the youngsters called upon at Bradshaw was freshman Chase Walden, who scored a game-high 22 points in the Horns’ 62-47 win over Mayer.
Walden opened the season on the junior varsity roster, but had seen some varsity playing time in early December.
Swanson predicts the frosh will be receiving more time on varsity as the season wears on, but will also remain on the jayvee roster.
“It’ll go week by week,” he said. “He works very hard on both ends of the floor, and that is how he is getting playing time on the varsity.
Horns beat CV and Mayer
For the tournament at Bradshaw, the Horns finished with a 2-3 record, losing to Liberty 57-49, Tucson Palo Verde 74-35, and Camp Verde 58-51; but whipping Chino Valley 55-51, and Mayer.
Throughout the tournament, senior captains Ever Figueroa and Cody Waterman paced the Horns offensively.
Figueroa’s best outing was the 27 points he scored in the win over Chino Valley. He also had nine points against Liberty and 12 vs. Camp Verde.
Waterman was a model of consistency, with 12 points in the loss to powerful Palo Verde, 10 vs. Chino Valley, 12 vs. Camp Verde and 13 in the win over Mayer.
Others who finished among Payson leaders were Andrew Curiel (10 vs. Mayer), Chamberlain Fitch (eight vs. Liberty) and Cale Novack (seven vs. Palo Verde).
Tournament honors were garnered by Palo Verde, a team that edged Las Vegas Cimarron in the shootout finale.
PV’s Bruce Cotton, who scored 24 points against Payson, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
The Longhorns return to the hardwood, today, Jan. 5, in Eagar-Springerville against Round Valley High. On Jan. 8, the Horns travel to Whiteriver to take on Alchesay.
Both games are all-important East region clashes.