The Longhorn boys basketball team capped a three-day, five-game run through the Alvarez Tire Shoot Out Invitational by downing the Prescott Badgers 79-68.
In the holiday tournament played Dec. 27 to 29 at Bradshaw Mountain High School, the Horns finished 2-3 overall, but the final day’s win over the Division II, Section II Badgers might signal good things to come.
The optimism for future success is because the team appears to have found a scorer, Cole Belcher, to supplement the offensive contributions of Tanner Hintze. Also the Horns showed a newfound defensive toughness pilfering 11 steals and blocking two shots.
Payson also did a nice job on the board, corralling 37 missed shots, 25 of which came on the defensive boards eliminating most of Prescott’s put back opportunities.
The win vs. Prescott marked one of the few times Hintze has not led the Horns in scoring. Belcher led the offensive parade, finishing with 21 points on commendable 9-of-16 shooting from two-point range. From three-point land he was a perfect 2-for-2, but struggled at the charity stripe hitting just one of his seven attempts.
Hintze finished with 18 points and Josh Oakley and Jake Hacker scored 10 each, giving the Horns four double-digit scorers for one of the few times this season.
In addition to Belcher’s scoring, he led the Horns on the boards with nine rebounds. He also finished with three assists, two steals, and a blocked shot to finish with an all-around floor game of which most any prep player would be justly proud.
Hintze hauled in eight rebounds and dished out three assists.
If there is to be a “ditto” marked on Horn stat sheets game after game it would be turnovers as the team continued to commit the miscues that have hampered it all year. A total of 22 turnovers vs. Prescott marks a slight improvement over some games this season, but it’s not the mark first-year coach Joe Sanchez has his sights set on.
In all, the team has committed 287 turnovers this year, including a high of 31 against Fountain Hills and a low of 11 against Palmer, Alaska.
By contrast, a Buckeye team that is 7-6 has committed just 171 turnovers.
Much of Payson’s problem can be attributed to the early season miscue blues, especially among those players who are fresh from football or soccer and still adjusting to the demands of basketball.