Sophomore Taylor Rizza shows some strong concentration as she watches the movement of the ball in the Lady Horns’ Holiday Hoops match with Coconino, which the Payson team lost 52-44.
Despite Round Valley’s 0-5 start to the 2010-2011 season — which included lopsided losses to Chinle, 58-25, and Window Rock, 63-2 — the Lady Elks might be a contender for the 3A East Region title.
Evidence that RV could be a player in the championship chase surfaced last month in the team’s 49-48 win over Blue Ridge and a 44-37 victory vs. Show Low.
Neither BR nor SL are girls basketball powerhouses, but Round Valley’s twin victories have the school atop the region standings with the East schedule about to unfold in earnest.
In January, all East teams will clash in both home and away games that culminate Feb. 8 to 10 in the regional tournament.
For Payson, the opportunity to prove the team is a legitimate East contender presents itself Jan. 4 in Wilson Dome against Round Valley.
A win would help eliminate any doubts the height-challenged and young Lady Horns don’t have the talent to compete in the East.
If AIA power points are to be used as a measuring stick of the two regional rivals, the teams are almost dead even.
Payson sits 17th in power points at 17.9245 and Round Valley is 18th at 17.2343.
If scores against common opponents mean anything, which they often don’t, Round Valley will be a favorite to whip Payson.
That’s because Payson lost 38-29 to a Show Low team that RV slipped past by seven points.
No matter what measuring stick is used, most expect the Jan. 4 game to be a junkyard dog fight.
Like Payson, RV is a relatively young team, with five sophomores on the 12-player roster that includes the surnames of some of the school’s finest former athletes including Peters, Finch, Udall and Eagar.
The Lady Elks are led by senior forward Taylor Peters who is the team’s scoring leader.
When it comes to the battle on the boards, Ashley Eagar, also a senior forward, is the Elks’ version of former NBA tough guy Paul Silas.
Karish Finch, Rachel Poche and Shania Yazzie round out the RV starting roster. Of course the big question mark in Eagar-Springerville and around the East is the future of all RVHS sports because the district’s governing board voted last week to suspend funding for all extracurricular activities for the spring semester and the 2011-2112 school year.
While the Lady Elks will play out the current basketball season, all future sports are in limbo unless townspeople can raise the money needed to keep the programs in tact.
Against Round Valley and all East rivals, the Lady Horns will be paced by Chioya Hill, Jaymi Carlen, Kelsey Waugh and newcomer Teanna Lopez.
In the Lady Horns’ opening game of the Holiday Hoops tournament, which was played Dec. 28 and 29 in Wilson Dome, Lopez injured her foot while trying to rebound a missed shot.
She left the game and watched the remainder from the sidelines, but returned later that day.
In many games this season Lopez has been the team’s leading scorer including the season-high 16 points she scored in a heartbreaking one-point loss to Fountain Hills.
Hill, who broke into the starting lineup last season as an untested and unknown freshman, is also a vital cog in the Lady Horn offense and defense.
Molly Davis, Waugh and Carlen are team tri-captains who coach Kelly Krieg depends upon for leadership both on and off the court.
Waugh is also the team’s only senior member rendering the Lady Horns a bright future with the likes of freshmen Harley Turney and Laine O’Donnell on the varsity roster. The team also has six sophomores making it one of the youngest in the 3A conference.