The Longhorn basketball team travels to Heber Mogollon today, Nov. 29, basking in the success of a 68-41 season-opening win over Globe and a stellar performance in a preseason scrimmage at Winslow.
As good as the Horns have been, however, the team will find the homestanding Mustangs a capable and determined opponent.
Proof tiny Mogollon High is capable of playing against bigger schools surfaced Nov. 22 when the Mustangs whipped Show Low 72-65 in overtime.
Rendering the final score a bit skewed was the fact Show Low was shorthanded because some of its team members were still playing on the football team that had reached the state tournament finale. But even if the Cougars had those players available, they would still have had their paws full vs. gutsy Mogollon.
Payson will take to Mogollon a team that first-year coach Joe Sanchez praises for its work ethic, selfless play and talent.
In fact, Sanchez is predicting the team could contend for postseason honors, “We are truly going to go far with these guys.”
While the roster is fairly deep with plenty of talented athletes for the coach to call upon, center/forward Tanner Hintze is the go-to player partly because he played that role last season when Bill Goodwin coached the team.
At the end of the 2009-2010 season, Hintze — then just a sophomore — was the only PHS player named All-East First Team.
Overcoming his youth and inexperience, he wrapped up the year as the Horns’ leading scorer, averaging 12.7 points per game, and was also a monster on the boards, leading the team in rebounding with 7.7 retrieves per game.
At 6 feet, 4 inches, Hintze has the size and ability to play at the low post either facing or with his back to the basket.
Against Globe, he took up offensively where he left off last year, leading the team with 21 points.
Hintze is also a capable rebounder who can battle underneath with the best of the division’s power forwards and centers.
Guillermo Lopez, a 5-foot, 9-inch junior, returns to the team after being sidelined late last season with an injury.
Playing point guard, he has the ability to bring the ball upcourt under pressure and also is able to penetrate, score, dish off or swish the long ball.
Against Globe, he finished with 11 points, nine of which were three pointers.
Josh Oakley, Cole Belcher and C. J. Nottingham also return from last season making the 2011-2012 Longhorns one of the most experienced teams in the past several seasons.
In the win over the Tigers, Oakley and Belcher finished with seven points each and Nottingham contributed five.
An intriguing addition to this year’s team is senior Jake Hacker, who prior to the start of this season has not played high school basketball.
At 6 feet, 5 inches he gives the Horns another “big” to play in the low block with Hintze.
In his varsity debut vs. Globe, he scored seven points.
Following the visit to Mogollon, the Horns travel Dec. 2 and 3 to Winslow where the team is entered in the Bulldog Invitational.