If the 3A state tournament were to start today, the Longhorn boys basketball team would advance as a lowly 16th seed and be forced to play the conference’s top-ranked team.
That’s because the Longhorns, with their 2-4 regular season non-tournament record (4-9 overall), are sitting 16th in the power point rankings. The conference’s top 16 teams earn the right to play in the postseason and are seeded highest to lowest.
Monument Valley, which is projected to be a state title contender, is ranked first slightly ahead of second place Florence.
Thankfully, the state tournament doesn’t begin today and the Longhorns have a month and 12 games to improve their power points ranking.
The quest for improvement, a better power ranking and the end to a six-game skid begins tomorrow, Jan. 4, in Wilson Dome against the Round Valley Elks who are sitting 12th in power points.
A win over RV would even the Longhorns all-important East record to 1-1 since PHS fell 43-41 Dec. 14 to Show Low.
While the Horns’ record is not one to write home about, the team has played many tough teams in the early season including some so-called “big school” teams like Las Vegas, Cimarron-Memorial, Notre Dame Prep and Bradshaw Mountain.
The Horns have also been highly competitive in some losses including 55-50 to a very good Snowflake Lobo team and 60-48 to a very talented Winslow group.
While some prep players might throw in the towel during a winless stretch, PHS first year coach Bill Goodwin has done an amazing job of building confidence in his players including the four seniors who are wearing PHS uniforms for the final time.
Justin Moratti, a senior co-captain, is one who has turned up his game a notch scoring a personal best 17 points in the loss to Notre Dame and finishing with 16 against Bradshaw Mountain.
Those are quite an accomplishment since it is scoring the Horns need most as the offense has struggled most of the year while Goodwin’s man-to-man defensive schemes have kept the team in contention.
“We have a long way to go offensively,” Goodwin said after the team returned last week from the Bradshaw Mountain tournament.
The brother act of Tanner and Russ Hintze are also key to the team’s offense, as both have shown the ability to score.
Goodwin might have also uncovered a gem in sophomore Ron Picking, who saw his first varsity action in the Bradshaw tournament.
Others the coach will be counting on this month against East foes are Cole Belcher, Sam Grassell, Josh Oakley and Zack Blazer.
While offense has been a focus of Goodwin and the players, defense will be at the hub of the Horn effort tomorrow against Round Valley mostly because the Elks will bring to Wilson Dome a trio of players scoring in double digits.
Troyal Turquoise, a 6-foot senior, is averaging more than 16 points per game and could be the team’s best three-point shooter. Michael Ciminski, the Elks’ tallest player at 6 feet, 4 inches, is pushing Turquoise to become RV’s scoring leader. Rulon Udall averages over 12 points a game and is responsible for engineering the Elk offense.
If there is a player on the RV team that local fans are very familiar with it is Chantz Davis, a 6-foot-3-inch senior.
Davis has pulled the trigger in the Elk football team’s high-powered aerial offense for the past three seasons including some memorable games against PHS. His passing exploits are well documented around the East and in the 3A ranks.
Game time tomorrow is 7:30 p.m.
The varsity clash will be preceded by jayvee and freshmen games.