Longhorn first-year basketball coach Joe Sanchez’s wish for his team to turn in a complete, all-around performance similar to some efforts seen earlier in the season was realized Tuesday evening, Jan. 10, in a 70-39 hammering of the Show Low Cougars.
In Wilson Dome, Payson players were relentless in the opening stanza, outscoring the befuddled Cougars 21-12.
In the later going, the situation didn’t improve much for the hapless Cats as Payson continued to pour it on, building a 43-21 halftime cushion.
The red-hot Horns cooled off a bit in the second half, but still managed to coast to an easy victory over the struggling Show Low team.
Much of the credit for the win can be attributed to the Horn defense that finished with a season-high 24 steals and forced Cougar players into numerous turnovers.
Cameron Romance led the Horn “D” in steals with six. Josh Oakley had five, Cole Belcher four and Tanner Hintze three.
Payson also blocked four Cougar shot attempts, two by Belcher.
The blowout allowed Sanchez to begin to empty his bench early, giving ample playing time to all 11 boys on the roster. For the first time this season, all the players scored.
Belcher led the “O” parade with 14 points, while point guard Guillermo Lopez, center-forward Tanner Hintze and first-year senior Jake Hacker finished with 11 each.
The Horns were only so-so from the free-throw line, cashing in on 15 of 22 attempts.
For the season, Payson is shooting 65 percent from the charity stripe — a mark Sanchez is probably hoping will improve before the postseason tips off.
In the battle on the boards vs. Show Low, Hintze muscled inside for a game-high eight rebounds, Hacker hauled in five and Belcher and Jamie Wadington had four each.
Payson was ticketed for 13 fouls, but no player was in foul trouble throughout the game.
For the season, Hintze is leading the team in scoring with a 15.9 ppg average. He’s also the team’s leading rebounder averaging 7.7 per game.
Belcher is the Horns’ only other double-digit scorer, averaging 12.1 ppg. He also paces PHS in assists with three per game and is top-ranked in blocked shots with 16.
In steals, Romance far and away leads with 53 thefts. Second best is 29 by Belcher.
With the win over Show Low, the Horns improve to 10-7 overall and 2-3 in Division III, Section III.
Among the 17 teams aligned in D-III, S-III, Fountain Hills (12-4; 3-0) and North Pointe Prep (10-6; 5-0) appear to be top dogs midway through the season.
Former Class 2A powerhouse Valley Christian (11-5; 1-1) also is formidable.
Estrella Foothills, a repeat state champion three years ago when the Hawkins brothers played for the team, is just 6-10 and 3-1, but on a five-game winning streak.
In Division III play, Holbrook has been almost unbeatable posting a 19-1 record losing only, 41-36, to “big school” powerhouse Mesa Westwood in the championship round of the White Mountain Holiday Classic.
Also in D-III, Thatcher is 15-1, Window Rock 10-1 and Alchesay, Piñon and Snowflake are 12-3. While those teams are the “haves” in D-III play, there are also the “have-nots” including Wickenburg (1-15), San Tan Foothills (1-12) and Chino Valley (1-10).