The Lady Longhorn effort in the 2011 Holiday Hoops tournament, set to be played Dec. 28 and 29 in Payson, will be buoyed by four veteran players who paced the PHS team in last year’s post Christmas basketball shoot-out.
Teanna Lopez, Chioya Hill, Jamie Carlen and Molly Davis return from the 2010 team that experienced its ups and downs in the annual hardwood fray whipping Blue Ridge 52-36, but then getting steamrolled 61-19 by a very good Mesa Westwood team.
The Lady Horns eventually finished 1-2 in the tournament, a mark they hope to improve upon this year.
Lopez was at her best last year in the win over Blue Ridge scoring a game high 16 points.
Against Flagstaff Coconino, Hill’s first game back in the lineup after twisting her ankle, she paced the Lady Horns with 12 points.
Hill, who was pressed into varsity action three years ago as an untested freshman, can also be a force on the boards as evidenced by her team high 12 rebounds in last week’s 48-14 win over Mogollon.
At the conclusion of last season, Hill was the only Lady Longhorn player to be named to the All-East Region first team.
Among Carlen’s best efforts in the 2010 Holiday Hoops was the 11 points she scored against Coconino. Davis contributed six.
In addition to first-year coach Jen White having the four veterans to call upon for leadership, she has two other players — Katelyn Curtis and Emme Ashby — who have shown well early this season.
Both are expected to be at the forefront of the Lady Horn tournament charge.
Ari Paulson and Harley Turney are among the varsity newcomers expected to contribute to the PHS holiday cause.
Holiday hardwood fun
The experience of having competed in a big time tournament will be an advantage the Lady Horn veterans can call upon when they begin pursuit on Dec. 28 of the school’s third Holiday Hoops championship in the about 20-year history of the hardwood skirmish.
This year, the tournament has drawn 16 teams from all school size ranks.
Gilbert, Glendale Apollo, Mesa Westwood, Tucson Catalina and Phoenix Xavier represent the so-called “big schools” that now compete in Division I.
Santa Cruz, Blue Ridge, Florence and Payson will represent small-town Arizona schools currently aligned in Division III.
Poston Butte, Yuma Kofa, Catalina Foothills, Queen Creek and Higley are also entered. Action tips off at 10 a.m., Wednesday, Dec. 28 in Wilson Dome with Payson hosting a yet to be determined opponent.
First round action continues throughout the day in both Wilson Dome and Julia Randall Elementary School gymnasium.
Because roof and ceiling repairs are being completed in the old PHS gymnasium, the facility cannot be used.
Tournament action resumes at 8 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 29 in both gyms with consolation and championship bracket play.
The consolation championship game is set for 5 p.m. that day in Wilson Dome.
At 8 p.m., also in the dome, the championship game will be decided.
In all, more than 30 games will be played in the course of two days.
At the conclusion of the tournament, director Kelly Krieg, also the PHS assistant head coach, will present trophies to the top finishing teams and also name the all-tournament players.
Holiday Hoops, which was founded in the mid 1990s by then-coach Jerry Daniels, has annually showcased some of Payson High’s finest basketball players.
In 2006, with current school board member Rory Huff coaching the Lady Horns, Danielle O’Haver wowed the crowds all tournament long with her long range shooting accuracy. She ended up making the all-tournament team and later set school records for three-pointers.
Although O’Haver and her teammates entered the holiday shoot-out as defending champs, they relinquished the crown to Desert Mountain, which beat Gilbert in the finale.
A real plus for the tournament that year was that it earned more than $3,000 for the basketball program. At the time, Huff called the cash, “money we really needed.”
A year earlier, the Lady Horns put on one of the most amazing rallies in the history of the program defeating Tempe McClintock 48-45 after trailing 18-5 to start the second quarter. Huff called the 2005 tournament “the toughest ever” with teams like Higley, Gilbert, Desert Mountain, Mesa Westwood, Tuba City and Tucson Catalina competing. In that tournament, Huff’s daughter — Haylee — earned Most Valuable Player honors.
In 2003, the Lady Horns — under former coach Shawn Hardt — turned in an outstanding tournament performance, but finished second, falling in the championship game to two-time defending state champion Tuba City. Also that year, former PHS baseball coach and then-town recreation leader Teddy Pettet served as tournament director.
In 2000, the Lady Horns, led by Jennifer Plumb, were again second. The tournament also showcased the hardwood abilities of ex-Lady Horn standouts Sidney Swartwood and Ashli Herrera.
In 1998, the terrific trio of Stephanie Robertson, Rheanna Martinez and Swartwood were among the finest players on the Holiday Hoops court.
Although the tournament has been a staple on the holiday agenda since founded by Daniels, it suffered a hiccup of sorts in 2008 when only an abbreviated form of it was held.
The format was altered — instead of the 16 teams that traditionally competed, the field was reduced to six schools.
Also, it was not played during the school district’s Christmas vacation as it had been, but rather moved to Dec. 12 and Dec. 13.
School officials said at the time, the tournament was changed to accommodate the coach’s schedule.
The tournament is popular as it draws schools of all sizes, affording athletes the chance to compete against players they might not see during the course of the regular season.