With the Show Low Cougars waiting in the wings, the Longhorn boys’ basketball team practiced Saturday morning hoping the extra day of tuning up would cure the maladies the team suffered Jan. 5 in a 51-40 loss to the Snowflake Lobos.
Among the woes coach Joe Sanchez hopes to correct was the poor shooting the team suffered from in the defeat in Lobo land.
From 2-point territory, the Horns shot a woeful 38 percent, which was compounded by even worse accuracy, 14 percent, from beyond the 3-point line.
Jamie Wadington was about the only player on target, hitting 4-of-5 two-pointers and 2-of-3 free throws.
Wadington finished as the team’s leading scorer with 10 points.
Tanner Hintze entered the game as the Horns’ leading scorer, averaging 16-plus points per game, but was held to eight points on 4-of-10 shooting.
Cole Belcher, who has been on a tear recently, tallied just six points and Cameron Romance finished with five.
In addition to struggling with poor shooting, the Horn cause suffered from 24 turnovers and 21 personal fouls.
In the loss, Snowflake opened a 13-10 lead and continued to expand it throughout the game, especially in the final eight minutes, outscoring PHS 13-9.
Following the game, Sanchez admitted he was frustrated with the effort, partly because the players had performed well during the five games of the Alvarez Tire tournament and on Jan. 3 in a 51-38 win over Page.
“I thought we were really getting better,” he said.
With the loss, the Horns fall to 9-7 overall and 4-2 in the power points standings which does not include tournament games.
In the Division III power point rankings for 58 schools, Payson is sitting 26th, which doesn’t bode well for chances of earning a berth into the state tournament should the team have to depend on points rather than becoming an automatic qualifier from Section III.
The Longhorns, however, will have the opportunity to improve on the standing this evening, Jan. 10 vs. visiting Show Low and down the road vs. Salt River (Jan. 20), Mingus (Jan. 13) and Blue Ridge (Jan. 17).
All are home games to be played in Wilson Dome.
Among the keys to victory in those upcoming games could be the play of Belcher, a 6-foot, 3-inch senior forward, who is the team’s second leading scorer averaging 12 ppg.
His scoring, supplemented by that of Hintze, gives the Horns two legitimate offensive threats. Which means, Horn foes can’t focus all of the defensive attention on stopping a single scorer.
Belcher is also a force on the boards, averaging 6.3 rebounds per game and leads the team in assists with 49.
Another key to Longhorn success is point guard Guillermo Lopez, who pulls the trigger in the PHS offense.
He averages 5.9 ppg and is a three-point scoring threat shooting about 38 percent from beyond the 19-foot, 9-inch arc.
More important than his scoring is the leadership that Lopez must show when setting up the offense — deciding when to run a set play and when to fast break.
When Lopez is taking good care of the ball and the Horns aren’t besieged by turnovers, the team is a force to reckon with.
Josh Oakley will also play a pivotal role in Longhorn success — mostly because he’s a well-rounded player who can score (9.1 ppg), and on occasion hit the three-ball.
Game time this evening vs. Show Low is 7 p.m.