The Lady Longhorn express is back on track and steaming toward a possible berth in the postseason.
After falling 43-34 to Snowflake on Jan. 4, Payson returned to the Wilson Dome hardwood five days later to cage and declaw the Show Low Cougars 51-28, improving the team’s regular season record to 7-5.
While the final score is indicative of a blowout, the game was actually much closer throughout the first half. The Lady Horns took a 14-10 lead in the first quarter and a slim 21-17 cushion into the halftime locker room.
But the second half was all Payson as the Lady Horns outscored the Cougars 13-4 in the third quarter and 17-7 in the final eight minutes to nail down the 23 point “W.”
In winning, PHS received a big-time booster from an unexpected source — Lani Donnell who took game scoring honors with 15 points.
Prior to her outburst, Donnell had scored only 45 points all season long and was averaging 5 ppg.
But against Show Low, she was on fire, hitting 7-of-10 2-point field goals and cashing in on her single 3-point attempt.
Her game would be even more explosive if she could find a way to get to the charity stripe for some freebies.
Against the Cougars, she didn’t shoot a single free throw and has shot just one in the entire season.
In addition to Donnell’s offense vs. Show Low, Payson received 10 points from freshman center Arissa Paulson and nine points from senior Chioya Hill’s sterling 4-of-5 shooting.
Point guard Harley Turney chipped in with six points but it was her all-around floor play that turned into a difference maker. She finished with six steals, four assists and four rebounds. She was charged with nine turnovers but does much of the team’s ball handling.
While Hill didn’t have her usual dominating rebounding game, she still managed to pace PHS on the boards with a team-high eight rebounds. She also had three steals, two assists and one blocked shot to chalk up a stellar all-around performance.
The Lady Horns return to the dome today, Jan. 11, in what will be the fourth of five consecutive regular season home games.
Prior to that streak, the Lady Horns played four games in the Holiday Hoops tournament, which means the team has enjoyed almost a month of home cookin’.
Payson’s opponent tonight, Mingus, is a Division II so-called “big school” but is not exactly setting the prep basketball world on fire with its 3-10 record.
The Marauders are no strangers to the Rim Country, having been in Payson last month competing in the Holiday Hoops.
In it, Mingus lost 55-32 to Catalina Foothills, 31-29 to Higley and 40-35 to Gilbert.