Veteran boys basketball coach Bill Goodwin knows what it will take for the Longhorns to emerge victorious this week against four teams who whipped Payson earlier this season.
“Tenacity, toughness and character,” he said. “This is a good chance for us to see what we are made of.
“These are all winnable games.”
The East region stretch began last evening, Jan. 10 in Wilson Dome against Show Low. It continues today (vs. Blue Ridge), Jan. 13 (vs. Round Valley) and Jan. 14 (vs. Snowflake).
All of the games except the Round Valley clash will be played in Wilson Dome.
Of this week’s four opponents, Payson played Show Low, Snowflake and Round Valley tough, but lost to Blue Ridge by a rather lopsided 57-40 margin.
Against Show Low earlier this season, the Horns fell 43-41. Payson dropped a 55-50 decision to Snowflake in the Cake Car Company Shoot-out in Winslow and was edged 50-49 last week by Round Valley.
In all important power points, which the Arizona Interscholastic Association uses to seed the top 16 Class 3A teams into the state tournament, Payson is ranked 14th, just ahead of 15th-rated Show Low. Round Valley is eighth, Blue Ridge ninth, Alchesay 11th and Snowflake 12th.
The AIA uses only the results of regular season games to compile the power points — tournament games are not taken into consideration.
On the MaxPreps Web site, Blue Ridge, Round Valley and Snowflake are tied for the East region lead with identical 3-1 records.
Payson is 1-2 and Alchesay and Show Low are 1-3.
Individually, MaxPreps shows Round Valley’s Troyal Turquoise and Michael Ciminski to be the East’s scoring leaders with averages of 19.9 and 15.2 ppg respectively.
The Horns enter this week’s arduous play fresh off breaking an eight-game losing streak with a 79-68 win over the Alchesay Falcons.
On Jan. 7 in Wilson Dome, Payson rallied from a 53-48 fourth-quarter deficit to deal the Falcons the East region loss.
The Horns trailed 34-32 at halftime.
Goodwin attributes the rally to “playing hard and hopefully our conditioning is starting to pay off.”
In the win, the Horns also played a much better ball control game, committing only 14 turnovers after averaging over 20 miscues most of the year.
The improvement is particularly commendable against an opponent like Alchesay because the Falcons play a scrambling, ball hawking style that makes it tough to get up court, set up an offense and get off a good shot.
At the free throw line, Payson made good on 11 of their 18 attempts, but scored only one three-pointer, that coming from Zack Blazer.
Individually, sophomore forward Tanner Hintze, 6-foot, 4-inches, pounded his way inside for 23 points and 10 rebounds — both team highs.
Cole Belcher, a 6-foot, 2-inch junior, continued his rapid improvement as of late with 10 pounds and 7 rebounds.
His efforts drew praise from the coach, “he’s working hard in practice and it’s beginning to show in games.”
Also in the win, Zack Blazer tallied 12 points, Cameron Romance had 10 and Justin Moratti finished with eight.
Romance had a good game defensively with three steals.