Longhorn boys basketball players don’t have much time to recover from the rigors of competing in the rugged 10th Annual Alvarez Tire Holiday Hoops Invitational, held Dec. 26 to 28 in Prescott Valley.
The lack of a respite is because the team’s demanding schedule has the Horns returning to the hardwood Jan. 3 to host Snowflake and Jan. 8 vs. Show Low.
Since the three teams are longtime rivals from past years when all were members of the now-defunct 3A East region, the showdowns are sure to turn both spirited and competitive.
Some might call them “barn burners.”
Among the Longhorns’ biggest challenges in returning for the 2013 portion of the season will be letting go of the disappointments of the Holiday Hoops tournament that included a humbling 75-18 loss to Scottsdale Chaparral and a 72-56 defeat vs. Sahuaro.
While Payson’s loss to Chaparral, a Division I football and basketball powerhouse that entered the game with a 7-3 record, was a blowout, the Longhorns gave Tucson Sahuaro a good test.
Sahuaro entered the game with lofty 13-3 credentials, but the Tucson contingent never dominated the Horns, as did Chaparral.
In fact, after Sahuaro built a 36-22 halftime lead, Payson was outscored only 36-34 in the second half.
When Payson hosts Snowflake and Show Low this week, the Horns will be at least playing schools more near their own size rather than against rivals, like Chaparral and Sahuaro, with student bodies of thousands of pupils.
Against Snowflake, the Horns will be out for a revenge of sorts for a 49-38 defeat PHS suffered on Dec. 11 in Loboland.
But Snowflake (10-4) will be a formidable foe, having dusted some decent opponents including Mohave, 59-26, and Holbrook, 57-48.
Show Low sports a mediocre 7-6 record, but features a promising young performer in junior Sean Potter, who leads the Cougars in scoring with a 10.8 ppg average.
Potter, a 5-foot, 11-inch point guard, has built a reputation as a decent three-point shooter and a good penetrator.
Payson (5-5) will counter the Lobos and Cougars with a lineup led by 6-foot, 5-inch senior power forward/center Tanner Hintze who leads the team in almost every statistical category.
Hintze plays with a supporting cast that includes senior shooting guard Guillermo Lopez, starting point guard Austin Young as well as Bubba Nielson, Ty Davis, Jared Varner and others.
Hintze and Lopez are the only two returning starters off last year’s team.