A 67-28 loss to the Fountain Hills Falcons dashed Lady Longhorn hopes of winning sectional honors and advancing to next week’s Division III “state” tournament as an automatic seed.
The defeat, which was absorbed Feb. 5 in a Section III first-round tournament game in Scottsdale, means the Lady Horns must play the waiting game to learn if their current No. 21 power points ranking among the division’s 57 schools is good enough to earn them an at-large seed into the state tournament.
The top four teams from each of the sectional tournaments earn automatic berths into the 24-team D-III state tournament. The tournament’s other 12 teams will be chosen based on regular-season power point rankings.
The Lady Longhorns’ 21st ranking is on the cusp of qualifying them for state play, but they’ll have to wait until the sectional tournaments wrap up to know their fate for certain.
Against Fountain Hills, all the marbles were on the line for both teams — win and you go to state, lose and you go home.
As crucial as the game was, Payson never played on even terms with the Falcons, falling behind 19-10 after the first 12 minutes and 36-18 at halftime.
PHS’s situation turned even worse in the second half as the team scored just eight points in the third quarter and two in the fourth.
The lopsided 39-point differential was one of the worst the Lady Horns have absorbed this season.
Individually, freshman Arissa Paulson finished with team highs in points (10), rebounds (9) and steals (4).
Senior Chioya Hill, who could have been playing in the final prep game of her career if PHS doesn’t earn a state berth, tallied eight points and corralled seven rebounds.
Paulson and Hill were the only two PHS players to score more than two points.
In losing, a season-long bugaboo, turnovers, came back to bite the Lady Horns.
Their 25 turnovers rendered beating a team as good as Fountain Hills doubly tough if not impossible.
With the win, Fountain Hills — the tournament’s No. 3 seed — moves to the second round to play No. 2 Camp Verde. In the opening round, Camp Verde blasted No. 7 Parker, 49-30.
Also in the opening round, No. 1 Valley Christian beat River Valley 76-28 and No. 4 Buckeye topped No. 5 Estrella Foothills, 47-36.
Valley Christian and Buckeye meet in a second round game today, Feb. 8.