Finishing 1-4 in the Alvarez Tire Holiday Hoops Classic and losing one game by a whopping 75-18 margin doesn’t disturb Payson Longhorn boys basketball coach Joe Sanchez.
“Those games don’t mean anything,” he said. “And if we play as well against Snowflake (Jan. 3) as we did against Moon Valley and (Yuma) Cibola (in the Holiday Hoops), we’ll win by 15 points.”
The 16-team Holiday Hoops Classic drew some of the finest “big school” Division I teams to Bradshaw Mountain High School Dec. 26-28, but the fierce competition, Sanchez contends, “was a good test for us ... it got us ready for the remainder of the season.”
Individually, Payson’s Tanner Hintze, shined in Bradshaw Mountain finishing, Sanchez says, “As the third or fourth leading scorer in the tournament.”
In a 62-58 hard-fought loss to Moon Valley, Hintze scored 25 points and in Payson’s 81-70 defeat vs. Cibola, he had 26 points.
His performances apparently caught the attention of opposing coaches, “The tournament director told me (Hintze) was one vote short of making the all-tournament team,” said Sanchez.
In addition to the Horns falling to Cibola and Moon Valley, PHS lost 72-56 to Tucson Sahuaro and 75-18 to a high-powered Scottsdale Chaparral team.
In the tournament finale, the Longhorns overwhelmed Mayer 75-20 even though Sanchez substituted young, inexperienced reserves into the game early on.
“It was ugly,” he said. “It was not the kind of game we needed to get us ready for Snowflake.”
Although Mayer didn’t give the Horns the competition Sanchez was hoping for, the win did improve Payson’s overall record to 6-8 and break a six-game losing streak.
Special tribute to Newtown
For the showdown yesterday against the Lobos in Wilson Dome (results not available at press time), the PHS players are participating in a special tribute to those affected by the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn.
The team, Sanchez said, will wear for pregame warm-up, specially designed T-shirts that read “Praying for Newtown on the front” and have the names of all those killed inscribed on the reverse side.
Also, the T-shirts will be sold at the game and proceeds donated to a special fund in Newtown.
“We won’t make a dime, it’s all for Newtown,” said Sanchez.
In hosting Snowflake, the Horns will be playing a Lobo team that defeated PHS by a 49-38 margin on Dec. 11 in Snowflake.
The Lobos entered yesterday’s clash sporting 10-4 record and having lost 65-50 to Window Rock on Dec. 21.
Against Snowflake, Hintze who will be surrounded by a supporting cast that includes Bubba Nielson, Guillermo Lopez, Jared Varner, Matt Davis and Ty Davis, will lead the Horns both offensively and defensively.
Nielson might have turned in the best game of his career in the Horns’ 72-48 loss to Fountain Hills on Dec. 18.
In it, Nielson tied Lopez for team scoring honors with 15 points and was later named “Player of the Game.”
Following the clash against the Lobos, the Horns travel Jan. 8 to Show Low to take on the homestanding Cougars. Like Snowflake and Payson, the Longhorns and Cougars continue to enjoy a longstanding rivalry having all been members of the now defunct 3A East Region for decades.
During those years, the three teams competed in many hard-fought nail-biters that helped create a small town rivalry that couldn’t be wiped away with the Arizona Interscholastic Association reconfiguration that two years ago replaced conferences and regions with divisions and sections.
Although the Lobos, Horns and Cougars are today all members of Division III, Payson resides in Section III and Snowflake and Show Low are in Section I.