Opportunities to nail down a berth into the 3A state tournament are slip-sliding away for the Lady Longhorn basketball team.
With only four games remaining in the season the team must mount some type of winning streak to qualify for state or take another route and do really well in the regional tournament when it is held Feb. 8, 10 and 11.
Another method of qualifying is on power points, but the Lady Horns might not make it there because they are currently ranked 18th among the 28 3A schools. The top 16 teams advance to state.
PHS could advance as one of the East Region’s top-three teams, but that is also a long shot because the Horns are now fourth in the East standings with a 2-5 record. Snowflake (5-0) is first, Round Valley (4-1) second and Alchesay third (3-2).
While the situation might seem dismal to some, coach Kelly Krieg is taking the “glass half full” optimistic approach. “I still believe our best basketball is ahead of us.”
The team members, however, didn’t help their state cause the past week dropping three games in which wins would have boosted power points or moved the team up in the region standings.
The three-game losing streak began Jan. 13 just two days after the Lady Horns had swept Show Low and Blue Ridge.
Pitted against Round Valley in Eagar, PHS fell 47-31. Just one day later in Wilson Dome, the Snowflake Lobos crushed the Lady Horns, 62-22. On Jan. 18 also in the dome, Payson fell 60-46 to Fountain Hills.
Against Round Valley, the Lady Horns struggled in the early going falling behind 25-10 at halftime.
“We had a slow start, but really played much better in the second half,” said Krieg.
Krieg. “I’m really proud of the effort our kids have been showing as we continue to learn that playing hard as a team will help us be successful.”
Jaymi Carlen drew the coach’s praise, “for continuing to play well, especially on offense as she has been attacking the basket and creating shots for herself and her teammates.”
She wrapped up the evening in Eagar with a team-high 11 points.
Teanna Lopez contributed 10 points and corralled 11 rebounds and Emmee Ashby scored five points and had five rebounds.
Defensively, Chioya Hill is the Lady Horns’ stopper usually assigned to contain the opponent’s best wing or post player.
In addition to being a defensive demon, she scored four points and had four rebounds.
Against Snowflake, the Lady Horns were simply overmatched, especially since two regulars were sidelined.
Also, because the team was playing its fourth game in five days, the players seemed to cough, sputter and run out of gas.
The grueling stretch, Krieg said, “was too much and it showed.”
Hill led the team offensively with 11 points.
Against Fountain Hills, Falcon superstar Kayla Patton dazzled the crowd scoring a game-high 30 points that did in Lady Horn hopes.
“She is exceptional,” said Krieg. “She has the ability to hit jump shots unlike most.”
For Payson, Hill led all scorers with 13 points and Carlen finished with 10, while drawing the coach’s praise. “She continues to be one of the better guards on the floor each and every night,” said Krieg. “She did a good job setting up her teammates on offense to be successful.”
Krieg also lauded Molly Davis for “the leadership and heart she brings to the court each practice and game.”
Davis tallied seven points. Laine O’Donnell received a starting opportunity and responded with eight points.
Payson has the opportunity to right its listing playoff ship today, Jan. 21, in Lakeside against Blue Ridge.
“We are looking forward to Blue Ridge, we are in need of a win,” said Krieg.
Following the BR showdown, the team will have the weekend off before returning Jan. 25 in St. Johns for a non-region clash.