For the second consecutive postseason tournament, it’s “one and done” for the Payson Longhorns basketball team.
The most recent exit occurred Feb. 14 in Safford where the homestanding Bulldogs eliminated the Horns from the Division III state tournament with a 69-60 come-from-behind win.
The first exit to shackle Horn hopes unfolded Feb. 8 in Surprise with a 75-60 Section III tournament first-round loss to eventual champion Valley Christian.
With the two-game losing streak ending the season, the Horns finish with a respectable 16-13 record under first-year coach Joe Sanchez, himself a former Payson High basketball player.
In the loss to Safford, the Horns broke upon a tight game in the second quarter to forge out a 31-23 halftime lead.
Early in the fourth quarter, with the Horns clinging to a precarious 47-45 lead, the Dogs went on a 24-13 scoring run to nail down the nine-point win.
Safford entered the tournament as a No. 16 seed and Payson took a No. 17 seed despite having a better win-loss record.
Because the Dogs were the higher seed, the team hosted the tournament opener.
Individually for the Longhorns, Tanner Hintze led all scorers with 21 points hitting 9-of-15 two-point field goals and 3-of-6 free throws. He also led the team in rebounding with 10 and had three steals.
Josh Oakley tallied 16 points and Cole Belcher finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.
The loss marked the end of prep careers for six PHS seniors — Cameron Romance, Jamie Wadington, C.J. Nottingham, Jake Hacker, Oakley and Belcher.
In other Division III first-round games, Valley Christian whipped Camp Verde, 68-53; Rio Rico topped Pinon, 69-54; Florence slipped past Northwest Christian 65-64 in overtime; Scottsdale Christian upset Empire, 68-53; and St. Johns dumped Valley Sanders, 77-62.
A first-round game pitting Tuba City at Parker was postponed due to an accident involving the Tuba City school bus. AIA officials say there were no serious injuries.
Also a first-round game between Globe and Tombstone was postponed due to weather.
Second-round tournament games begin today, Feb. 17, in the Walkup Skydome on the campus of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
The championship finale is set for either 6 p.m. or 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 25 in Jobbing.com Arena in Glendale.