Emmee Ashby’s monster game — highlighted by 17 points, nine rebounds and four steals — got the Lady Longhorns off and running in the Holiday Hoops with a tournament opening 59-32 victory over San Tan Foothills.
Following the win, the Lady Horns went on to whip Queen Creek, 37-34, but dropped a quarterfinal clash, 48-28, to Mesa Westwood.
In the battle for third place the evening of Thursday, Dec. 29 in Wilson Dome, Payson dropped a hard fought 44-38 decision to Marana to finish 2-2 and fourth in the tournament.
In the win over San Tan, the Lady Horns unleashed a stifling full court, man-to-man press that befuddled and frustrated Sabercat players.
PHS first-year coach Jen White kept the press on until calling time out with 1:13 remaining in the game to tell her players to fall back in a half court scheme.
While Ashby dominated the game, the Lady Horns also received solid efforts from other players.
In particular, Chioya Hill controlled the boards corralling 13 missed shots.
Many of her rebounds eliminated any chance the Sabercats had for put backs and second shot attempts. Hill also finished with five steals off the full court pressure.
The team’s leading scorer, Teanna Lopez, had an off night especially from beyond the three-point line, but still managed to score 13 points.
Molly Davis contributed some hard-nosed play and 10 points.
In the opener, the Lady Horns appeared to be running away with the game taking an early 14-3 lead on sophomore Arianna Paulson’s free throw.
But the Sabercats refused to throw in the towel closing to 18-13 with 1:33 remaining in the first quarter.
The San Tan rally appeared to fire up Payson players who went on to build up leads of 33-17 and 43-26 before coasting to the 27-point victory.
In addition to relying on full court pressure defense most of the tournament, the Lady Horns rode the quest of a running game in which they took the fast break if it was there and if not, pulled back and ran a set offense.
For the holiday tournament, 16 teams participated over the course of two days playing in Wilson Dome and Julia Randall Elementary School gymnasium.
The Lady Horns return to action today, Jan. 3, in Wilson Dome against Page. Game time is 5:30 p.m.