A 1-3 record certainly isn’t anything to brag about.
But when all three losses come against bigger schools and the roster is down to eight players, including two junior varsity girls brought along for depth, it’s not so bad.
In fact, Payson girls varsity basketball coach Jennifer White saw plenty to be excited about in the Longhorns’ performance in the season-opening Queen Creek Turkey Shootout held Nov. 25-26.
Division 3 Payson opened with a win over Division 3 Parker before losing its final three games against Division 2 opponents Phoenix Trevor Browne, Gilbert Campo Verde and Gilbert Higley.
“We were missing two starters who were on family vacation and another who was injured and still beat Parker,” White said. “We played really well.
“Another starter was injured in the Trevor Browne game, so we were without four key players. But we played great.
“(Senior) Jessie Cline missed the third and fourth games for college. She’s part of the NAVIT program, so she takes college courses. By the third and fourth games we were down to eight players and two of them were JV players that just came with us. So we were bare bones and the girls really stepped up.”
The Longhorns opened the tournament down three players. Arianna and Arissa Paulson were out of town on a family vacation and Kelsee Stonebrink was injured in the team’s scrimmage two days before the start of the tournament. And Savannah Grassel was injured in the first game against Parker and missed the final three contests.
But sophomore Tessa Hintze did her best to pick up the slack. She averaged 9.8 points per game. She scored 20 points against Trevor Browne and matched that with 20 points against Higley. She bagged 15 points against Parker.
“Two 20-point games as a sophomore is fantastic,” White said. “She’s a great asset to our team. I’ll be really excited to see what we can do when we have our full team back and are healthy.”
Harley Turney was a consistent scorer, averaging 8.8 points. The senior scored 14 points against Parker, nine against Trevor Browne, six against Campo Verde and six against Higley.
“Harley Turney was great,” White said. “She has such great energy.”
In addition to Hintze’s 20-point effort and Turney’s nine points, White also praised the performances by sophomore Sara Novack and junior Cori Barnett against Trevor Browne. Novack, normally a guard, shifted to power forward because the team was shorthanded and scored five points.
“I was proud of my underclassmen for stepping up,” the coach said. “Sara Novack really stepped up and played a power forward. She kept us in the game. And Cori Barnett played strong coming off an injury.”
Junior Sydnie Martindale scored 25 points to lead Higley to a 58-39 win over Payson. But White liked what she saw from the Longhorns in that game.
“We did a lot of really good things,” she said. “We just couldn’t stop their star player. We had a lot of injuries but it allowed my younger players to step up. (Senior) Lanie O’Donnell scored six points. Tessa Hintze hit three three-pointers and had 20 points. And Harley Turney was great.”
The coach said the tournament was great for the coaching staff and players.
“We know what we need to work on,” White said. “We’re excited for the regular season. It’s great for young kids to get experience. It was an opportunity for those younger kids to play. Our seniors that were there did a great job.”
The Longhorns resume action with their home opener against Camp Verde on Dec. 10.