The high flyin’ Lady Longhorn basketball team emerged from the Third Annual Wrangler Cage Classic Invitational with a 3-1 record and a second place finish, losing only to Division II Youngker, 48-29, in the championship finale on Dec. 15 at WHS.
“The girls played hard and won the first three games (of the tournament),” said coach Jen White.
The loss was the Lady Horns’ first of the season after starting the year 9-0.
Individually at the tournament, the one-two sister punch of Arianna and Arissa Paulson were named to the all-tournament team in a voting of coaches.
While a second place finish in a 12-team tournament was a top-notch showing, it was a 33-32 come-from-behind win over archrival Snowflake that had fans and followers glowing with pride.
That’s because, since the early 1970s — when the rivalry between the Longhorns and Lobos first ignited — whipping Snowflake, especially in front of their home crowd, has been a goal of every player to don the purple and gold.
This year, the Lady Lobos (3-5) are not quite the juggernaut they have been in the past, but a “W” in Snowflake is always something to revel over in the Rim Country.
In the hard-fought, low-scoring game, Payson carved out a slim 7-5 lead early only to see the Lady Lobos take a 15-14 cushion into the halftime locker room.
Entering the final eight minutes of play, Snowflake led 24-22 and appeared on the verge of winning a cliffhanger.
But the never-say-die Lady Horns erased the Lobo lead to win by the smallest of margins.
Individually, freshman Arissa Paulson fueled the Longhorn offense with 11 points. She also turned in an all around fine floor game with 10 rebounds, four blocked shots and a steal.
Following the win White praised Arissa Paulson saying, “Great job shooting under pressure.”
Also in on the W, senior Chioya Hill continued her quest to set a school career rebounding mark corralling a game-high 15 rebounds.
Hill and Arissa Paulson’s rebounding efforts helped PHS win the battle on the boards 36-29.
Hill also pitched in with six points, two steals and a blocked shot.
Harley Turney scored seven points and dished out three assists, but it was her defensive presence that fueled the Lady Horns. By blocking five Lobo shot attempts, she was a thorn in the Lobos’ paws all evening long.
As sweet as the win was, a familiar bugaboo, turnovers, again slowed the Lady Horn effort.
By committing 31 turnovers, the players were sometimes their own worst enemy.
While the victory over the Lobos was a nail-biter, a 42-27 win over homestanding Miami on Dec. 6 offered little drama.
Once again, Hill was a one-player dynamo off the boards taking game-high rebounding honors with 21 retrieves. Arissa Paulson turned in another strong showing, especially for a first year varsity player, with 11 rebounds.
Which meant, if Hill didn’t have the missed shot, Arissa probably did.
As in the Snowflake victory, White named Arissa the Player of the Game saying “Great game for this talented freshman.”
Offensively vs. the Lady Vandals, Turney led all scorers with 14 points. Arissa Paulson finished with 13 and Hill had 12, giving the Lady Horns a trio of double-digit scorers.
The Lady Horns did struggle from the free-throw line, cashing in on just eight of 18 attempts.
Payson returns to the hardwood today, Dec. 18, at Fountain Hills marking the team’s eighth consecutive game on the road.
PHS fans can take heart, however, they will soon have the opportunity to see the team in action on the home court. On Dec. 28-29 the Lady Horns host the annual Holiday Hoops tournament in Wilson Dome and old PHS gymnasium.