The Holiday Hoops basketball tournament gives Lady Longhorn players the opportunity to test their skills against opponents they might not play against in the course of the regular season.
The diversity is because the invitational attracts teams from around the state and of all school size classifications.
Alchesay and Round Valley will represent the Division IV “small school” classification while Gilbert, Westwood and Yuma Kofa will compete from the so called “big school” Division I.
Several Division II schools, including Queen Creek, Apollo, Higley and Mingus, are also entered.
Blue Ridge is about the only tournament team representing Division III, of which Payson High is a member.
The variety of schools creates great competition and gives the student-athletes from smaller schools the chance to knock off metropolitan teams and prove bigger is not always better.
The tournament tipped off at 10 a.m. this morning, Dec. 28, and will continue through tomorrow in both Wilson Dome and the old PHS gymnasium.
The Lady Longhorns will be led in the tournament by a solid nucleus of players including Harley Turney, Chioya Hill, Arissa Paulson, Arianna Paulson and others.
Turney leads the team in scoring with a 11 ppg game average. She also is tops in assists having dished out 24 in eight games. Defensively, she is tops among the Lady Horns with 29 steals.
Hill is second on the team in scoring averaging 10 ppg, but it is her rebounding that makes her a big time threat at both ends of the court.
Her rebounding average of 18.5 per game is second in Division III only to Wickenburg’s Cora Morales who averages 18.7, but the Wrangler stalwart’s stats only reflect three games.
Playing power forward, Hill obviously has never seen a rebound she doesn’t desperately want to corral and could break the school career rebounding record now held by Trista Carlton.
In addition to Hill’s scoring and rebounding, she is solid defensively with 10 steals and 13 blocked shots.
Arissa Paulson, only a freshman, has been drawing rave reviews for her hoop talent since she starred at Rim Country Middle School.
As a much-welcomed addition to the 2012-2013 PHS team, Arissa averages 9.7 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Teamed with Hill, the pair give the Lady Horns one of the strongest 1-2 rebounding and scoring punches in D-III.
Arissa’s older sister, Arianna, last year pitched the Lady Longhorn softball team into the state semifinals, but now focuses on basketball averaging 7.1 ppg. Arianna is also a three-point field goal threat and is accurate from the free throw line as evidenced by her 65 percent shooting. Arianna also averages 5 rebounds per game and has doled out 10 assists. Defensively, she is developing a reputation as a smooth operating pickpocket with 24 steals.
Only Alix Parker, with 29 steals, has more than Arianna. Parker also contributes at the offensive end where she is perhaps the Lady Horns’ best threat from downtown having made 5-of-13 three-point attempts.
Early season results indicate the Lady Horns are well-rounded both offensively and defensively, which should bode well for the team as it pursues Payson High’s second-ever Holiday Hoops tournament championship.