The Longhorn boys basketball team puts its 2-0 record on the line this evening against a school Payson has never played before in any sport.
The opponent, Sequoia Secondary Charter School, is a small, four-year school located in Mesa. Sam Valencia and Nate Wong coach the Stallions, but little else is known about the team.
Payson enters the early season fray having beaten Globe 65-30 in both teams’ season openers on Nov. 20 in Wilson Dome. On Nov. 27 in Heber, the Horns tacked on another win, whipping Mogollon 69-45.
Although Payson had its way with the outmanned Mustangs, PHS coach Joe Sanchez was not happy with his team’s play early on, “I was very disappointed in the first half, and Mogollon definitely out-hustled us.”
Seeing his team trailing 32-31 at halftime, Sanchez took the break time to ignite a fire under the players, “I challenged the boys and told them we were not playing Longhorn basketball.”
The challenge must have worked, at lease defensively, because the Horns allowed only 13 points in the second half.
“Defensive pressure was there… If we can play four quarter consistently, we can be a very good team,” Sanchez said. “We are not where we want to be; we still have a lot of work to do, but feel like we are heading in the right direction.”
Individually, Ty Davis led all scorers with 15 points. His efforts drew Sanchez’s praise, “He came off the bench and his energy kept us in the game.”
Also for Payson, Tanner Hintze contributed 14 points, Bubba Nielson had 12 and Guillermo Lopez chipped in with nine.
In the 35-point lambasting of Globe, homestanding Payson jumped out to a 24-11 halftime lead and never looked back.
Lopez, a shooting guard who has also played the point, paced the team to the easy win, finishing with 19 points which prompted the coach to express confidence, “He showed he can be our leader offensive and defensively.”
Nielson finished with 12 points while dishing out five assists. Hintze, the team’s leading scorer last season and also an all-division honoree, was held to six points but contributed five assists.
“He was double- and triple-teamed and was able to pass off to the open man,” said Sanchez.
Hintze also led the team in the battle on the boards, finishing with 10 rebounds.
Matt Davis, a sophomore, tallied eight points all in the fourth quarter.
All evening long, point guard Austin Young successfully engineered the Horns’ flex offense.
“He can run it very well. He got everyone involved,” Sanchez said.
Defensively, the Horns played mostly man-on-man from the halfcourt line, which is what the coach promised in midseason his strategy would be.
The “D” worked almost flawlessly in the first quarter, holding the Tigers to a single field goal.