Payson’s girls basketball team was 2-3 in the 10-team Payson Holiday Hoops Tournament it hosted Friday-Saturday.
But the Longhorns could have just as easily won all five games and reached the championship game.
PHS led all three games it lost in the second half before stumbling at the end. And all three defeats came against larger schools.
Division II Gilbert Campo Verde scored on a layup in the final second to beat Division III Payson 30-29. Division I Glendale Apollo rallied past the Longhorns 32-28. Payson beat Div. IV St. Johns 30-20 to finish Friday 1-2. PHS then beat Div. III Show Low 40-25 in a pool game that didn’t count for Payson, but did for Show Low on Saturday morning. Payson led Div. II Gilbert Higley by one point at halftime in the consolation bracket, but the Knights rallied for a 35-30 victory. Higley went on to beat St. Johns in the consolation final.
“I guess what I’m really excited about is this is a tougher tournament and we played different teams from the Valley, bigger teams, and we really held our own,” said coach Jennifer White. “We are our own worst enemy. And, once we get that figured out, I have full confidence that we could go right into state.
“So we just have to figure out those things. I’m really proud of them for what they did today and I take only positives away.”
Turnovers were the biggest problem down the stretch in the three losses for PHS.
Whiteriver Alchesay went 3-0 to win Pool A then beat Apollo, which finished second in Pool B, 38-29 in the semifinals and Blue Ridge 44-39 in the championship bracket final. Blue Ridge finished second in Pool A, going 2-1. The Yellow Jackets, who lost to Alchesay 31-23 on Friday, beat Pool B champion Campo Verde 31-22 in the semifinals to get another shot at the Falcons but couldn’t beat them for the title.
Alchesay and Blue Ridge are both in Div. III Section IV with Payson, Winslow, Snowflake, Holbrook, Round Valley, Globe and Show Low.
Coaches voted Payson sophomores Arissa Paulson and Tessa Hintze to the all-tournament team.
In its first game, Payson rallied from a 19-9 halftime deficit to outscore Campo Verde 20-11 in the second half. The Longhorns actually took the lead, but Campo Verde scored on a layup in the final second to pull out the victory.
Arissa Paulson scored 11 points for PHS and Hintze chipped in seven points. Nobody else had more than four points. Ali Foster scored 11 of her game-high 15 points in the first half for Campo Verde. Cori Barnett was voted Payson’s Player of the Game by the referees.
“We started off a little bit weak,” White said. “I don’t even know what we were doing. It was not our normal level of intensity and we lost the first game by one, which kind of set us back, and the second game by four.
“We won our next two, then played Higley, who we played in Queen Creek and got beat by 20, and stayed with them right to the end and ended up losing by five. I’m so proud of them. They played so hard that last game. Everything that we’ve worked on, they did in that game. They played with heart and I was very proud of them.”
Against Apollo, Arissa Paulson had nine points, eight rebounds, three blocks and two steals and Hintze had nine points, three steals and three rebounds. Also for PHS, Arianna Paulson contributed five points and three steals and Barnett had six rebounds.
Harley Turney was voted Payson’s Player of the Game by referees in both the Apollo and St. Johns games. She had eight points, four steals and four assists against the Redskins. Lanie O’Donnell led the offense with 11 points against St. Johns. Arissa Paulson contributed six points, nine rebounds, three blocks, seven steals and three assists and Hintze five points and five rebounds.
Hintze led a trio of Longhorns scoring in double figures against Show Low, with 12 points. She also came up with nine steals and five rebounds. Turney had 10 points and nine steals and Arianna Paulson added 10 points, four rebounds and two steals and was voted PHS Player of the Game. Arissa Paulson had six points, nine rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
Arissa Paulson was named PHS’s Player of the Game with 17 points, five rebounds and three steals against Higley. But 31 turnovers hurt the Longhorns, who led 24-23 with 8:21 remaining, but were outscored 12-6 the rest of the way. Cori Barnett had four points and 10 rebounds. Sydnie Martindale had a game-high 18 points for the Knights.
The Paulson sisters were traveling with their family and missed the season-opening Queen Creek Turkey Shootout, where PHS lost to both Higley and Campo Verde.
“That was a big thing,” White said. “We play well with the Paulson girls.
“But the biggest thing is, we came to play this game and we played with heart. Sometimes we don’t necessarily do that. It’s all about our heart and how hard we play on defense.
“Campo Verde also beat us at the Queen Creek tournament by quite a bit. So, I don’t think that they were quite expecting who we were.”
The Longhorns were shorthanded as senior forward Savannah Grassel had to sit out the tournament nursing a knee injury.
Arianna Paulson didn’t play a lot in the Campo Verde rematch, either, as she was dealing with bronchitis the previous three days. But after missing the team’s first practice following a two-day Christmas break, she was eager to get back on the court.
“She played very minimal minutes in the first game because we were trying to hold her off because she’s been really sick,” her coach said. “But she couldn’t handle it anymore and she came in and said, ‘I’m ready. Put me in.’”
The senior point guard said the Longhorns played well, overall, in the tournament.
“We could have done some things differently (at the end of the Campo Verde game),” she said. “So it was a little disappointing.
“But we’re pretty resilient. We just really communicated better and worked as a team (these last two days).”
Joining the two Payson girls on the all-tournament team were: Alchesay’s Patricia Tessay, Amber George and Raeleigh Johnson, Blue Ridge’s Lita Henry and Jamie Truax, Higley’s Sydnie Martindale and Nicole Flora, St. Johns’ Abbie Waite and Analee Thompson, Apollo’s Cyrina Salgado, Campo Verde’s Ali Foster, Gilbert Classical’s Siera Warren and Show Low’s Madison Maxwell.
PAYSON HOLIDAY HOOPS TOURNAMENT
FRIDAY, DEC. 27
Alchesay 66, Miami 24
Gilbert Higley 60, Gilbert Classical 5
Blue Ridge 57, Miami 16
Alchesay 47, Gilbert Higley 39
Miami 48, Gilbert Classical 16
Alchesay 31, Blue Ridge 23
SATURDAY, DEC. 28
Gilbert Higley 41, Miami 11
Blue Ridge 39, Gilbert Classical 7
FRIDAY, DEC. 27
Gilbert Campo Verde 30, Payson 29
St. Johns 27, Show Low 13
Glendale Apollo 32, Payson 28
Gilbert Campo Verde 50, Show Low 16
Payson 30, St. Johns 20
Gilbert Campo Verde 42, Glendale Apollo 32
SATURDAY, DEC. 28
Payson 40, Show Low 25
Glendale Apollo 30, St. Johns 16
SATURDAY, DEC. 28
B5-Show Low d. A5-Gilbert Classical
A3-Gilbert Higley 35, B4-Payson 30
B3-St. Johns 33, A4-Miami 21
Gilbert Higley 34, St. Johns 21
A1-Alchesay 38, B2-Glendale Apollo 29
A2-Blue Ridge 31, B1-Gilbert Campo Verde 22
Alchesay 44, Blue Ridge 39