The Lady Longhorns won’t be dancin’, but the boys’ basketball team is pinning on a boutonniere and filling out its 3A state dance card.
The girls’ basketball team, which was 4-14 in regular season, non-tournament games, failed to qualify for the 16-team state tournament with either an East region top-three finish or via the power points route.
In power points, the Lady Horns compiled 52.9218 to finish 20th in the 26-team conference.
Winslow (No. 6), Chinle (No. 10), Holbrook (No. 11) and Fountain Hills (No. 13) received the conference’s four at-large qualifying berths.
The boys also did not qualify for state as a top-three region finisher, but rather earned a coveted invitation as one of four at-large teams to receive a dance ducat on power points.
The Horns posted 64.6665 points and were ranked 15th.
The other East at-large qualifiers are Blue Ridge (No. 5), Window Rock (No. 3) and Florence (No. 6).
Payson opens the state tournament at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 19 at Fountain Hills High School against the home-standing Falcons — a two-seed from the West region.
The two teams are no strangers to one another, having clashed twice in the regular season. On Dec. 17 in Wilson Dome, the Falcons hung a 62-36 loss on the Horns, and on Jan. 18 at Fountain Hills, the Birds again soared, 64-42.
If the Horns can pull off the upset of the season by whipping FH, the team would advance to the second round on Feb. 22 at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.
The opponent would be the winner of a first-round game pitting No. 7 Round Valley against No. 10 Alchesay.
But before coach Bill Goodwin and his players can begin thinking about the elite eight, they must take care of maladies that plagued them earlier against Fountain Hills.
First off, the Horns cannot experience another third quarter collapse as they did in the Jan. 18 game. Payson was in contention until a third-stanza letdown in which they were outscored 23-5.
Droughts such as that are almost impossible to overcome, no matter how valiant the effort. Next, the Horns must find a way to stall Fountain Hills’ two-headed monster — Jeffrey Bonner and Nick Baker. In the win over Payson, the two combined for 34 points, 14 rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals to stab a dagger in Longhorn hearts.
If the pair’s efforts can be contained, controlled and thwarted, the Horns should be able to contend even though they enter the game as huge underdogs.
Next up in the hardwood scheme of things, is the old proverb that the third time you try to do something it will work.
That’s exactly what Payson High athletic director Rob Varner had on his mind when he asked about the upcoming game, “third time a charm?”