A whopping 31 turnovers coupled with Alchesay’s red-hot start spelled the demise of Longhorn boys basketball fortunes in a 74-57 loss to the Falcons.
On Jan. 8 in Whiteriver, Alchesay stormed out to a 27-11 first quarter lead and never looked back, dropping Payson to 1-2 in the East Region and 9-8 overall.
Alchesay improved to 3-2 in the East and 13-6 overall.
“They came flying out of the gates and we just weren’t mentally prepared for it,” said coach Jared Swanson.
“We played fairly solid second, third and fourth quarters, but it wasn’t enough for us to be competitive.”
The dismal loss marked the second successive game with which the Horns have struggled in East Region competition.
On Jan. 5 in Eagar-Springerville, the Horns fell 61-27 to a fired up Round Valley Elks team.
“Our guys were just not ready to play and the score at the end of the game showed that,” Swanson said.
In the loss to Alchesay, Cody Waterman added another excellent all-around performance to his resume of accomplishments finishing with 23 points, 14 rebounds and five steals.
His efforts, however, weren’t enough to overcome the 30 points scored by Alchesay hotshot Rasta Nashio. Nashio is currently the region’s leading scorer averaging 30.3 ppg.
For Payson against Alchesay, Ever Figueroa scored 14 points including a 4-for-4 effort from the free-throw line.
Freshman Chase Walden has been receiving considerable playing time recently and against Alchesay responded by contributing six points and five assists.
Swanson said the frosh would continue to receive varsity playing time, despite his youth, as long as he contributes at both ends of the floor.
If the number of free throws attempted is a sure sign of aggressiveness, as many coaches suggest, Alchesay was indeed the more forceful team on the floor.
Payson shot just nine free throws and the Falcons were awarded 27.
Payson made eight of their attempts and Alchesay cashed in on 23.
Although the losses to Round Valley and Alchesay were disheartening, they were absorbed without one of Payson’s finest players, Dakota Marshall on the court.
With Marshall in the lineup, the Horns were rolling along to a 7-1 record and had won the Cake Chevrolet Invitational in Winslow. But on Dec. 18 against Fountain Hills, Marshall went down with what is believed to be an ankle/lower leg stress fracture and hasn’t played since.
At 6 feet, 5 inches, he was the Horns’ chief inside threat and one of the top “big men” in the East.
All the news about Marshall is not dismal. Coaches are saying there is a chance he could return to the lineup today, Jan. 12, against Blue Ridge in Wilson Dome.
Marshall was scheduled to be examined and receive X-rays late yesterday afternoon to determine if the injury had healed sufficiently enough for him to return.
If he should become available, it would be in the nick of time to compete against one of the East’s finest teams — Blue Ridge.
Although the Horns edged the Yellow Jackets 46-44 in the Cake Chevrolet Shoot Out, BR has been on a roll since that loss, improving their season record to 16-2. The Jackets are also 4-0 in the East and currently sitting atop the standings.
BR thrives on the three-headed offensive attack of Kenny Kellywood (15.1 ppg), Nick Johnson (12.2) and Robert Kinney (11.2).
Slowing those three is crucial if Payson is to win today, and having Marshall in the lineup would be a big defensive boost, especially in the paint.
Following tonight’s game vs. BR, it’s into the proverbial fire from the frying pan for the Longhorns.
The inferno is Round Valley, which visits Wilson Dome Jan. 14, looking for a second win over Payson.
The Horns will be out to redeem themselves from their earlier lopsided loss to the bugle boys.
On Jan. 15, the Horns play their third game in five days, this time traveling to Snowflake to take on an up-and-down Lobo team, which is 1-4 in the East, but has a winning 10-8 overall record.