Payson Longhorn Jared Varner rises above the competition to take a shot.
Photo by Andy Towle.
“I say, trouble right here in River City” is a lyric from “The Music Man” that could pertain to Payson even though we’re not a city and the closest river is the Verde.
But there is trouble here — it’s with the PHS boys basketball team that might not earn enough power points to reach the Section III postseason tournament when it kicks off Feb. 6 in Surprise.
And if the Horns don’t qualify for the sectional showdown, reaching the Division III tournament to begin Feb. 12 will mean even greater trouble.
First off, to reach the sectional tournament the Horns must be ranked among the top eight of the 17 teams in Section III.
As of Tuesday, the last time the power point rankings were updated, the Horns were ninth with a rating of minus 0.2778.
To climb into contention for an S-III playoff berth, Payson must pass before the end of the regular season No. 8 Bourgade, which is rated 1.2319 with its 6-6 record.
That means when the Horns wrap up the 2012-13 campaign with games against Alchesay (Jan. 26), Fountain Hills (Jan. 29), Blue Ridge (Jan. 30) and Show Low (Feb. 1), all the marbles will be up for grabs.
Of those games, the only clash where the Longhorns will enjoy home cookin’ is tomorrow’s game against Alchesay.
Looking down the schedule highway, Fountain Hills will be a particularly crucial game because the Falcons are members, along with Payson, in Section III. Currently, FH is sitting sixth with a 5-9 record and a 1.4339 rating. A win over the Falcons could go a long way in propelling PHS up the rankings. Of course a loss to FH would be devastating.
Alchesay, Blue Ridge and Show Low are all members of S-I and ranked sixth, seventh and eighth respectively. So all three, like Payson, will be fighting for their playoff lives.
If the Longhorns do not qualify for the sectional tournament, they could earn a seed into for Division III “state” showdown by earning one of the 12 at-large berths that will be awarded in the 24-team tournament.
After the first 12 D-III state “automatic” tournament seeds are awarded to the top-four finishing teams in each of the three section tournaments, the remaining slots will go to the other 12 teams with the most power points.
But Payson’s chances of earning an at-large berth are slim at best because the team is currently ranked 35th among the 58 D-III teams.
But, of course, that ranking could change if the Horns go on a late-season streak and win out.
But the Horns will have to fare better than they did Jan. 16 in Page during a 44-40 loss to the Sand Devils.
The game was originally scheduled for Dec. 15, but had to be postponed due to a snowstorm that struck northern Arizona.
In the defeat, the Horns played well early, taking a 14-12 lead in the first eight minutes and forging out a 21-17 halftime cushion.
But in the second half, the Dust Devils outscored PHS 27-19 to rally for the victory.