Blanked, shut out, zero, zilch, zippo — that’s how many Payson High School basketball players were named to the Division III All-Section III first or second team when the Arizona Interscholastic Association announced last week the results of coaches’ postseason voting.
For the Joe Sanchez-coached boys team, both Tanner Hintze and Guillermo Lopez seemed to be strong contenders for postseason honors.
Lady Longhorns Chioya Hill and Arissa Paulson were among the finest players in Section III and looked to be honors contenders.
The snubbing of PHS players came as a surprise to many smalltown fans and boosters mostly because both local teams seemed to have all-star caliber players.
The slighting could have occurred because in the new division-section school configuration that two years ago replaced conferences and regions, all teams within a section no longer play one another during the course of the regular season.
Which means, the coach of a Section III team that did not play Payson would probably not vote for a PHS player because he or she had not seen the athlete play and had no firsthand knowledge of the candidate’s contributions or abilities.
Sanchez is reasonably sure that is the reason fellow coaches didn’t vote for PHS players, “The only teams that saw us from the section were Valley Christian, Fountain Hills and Cortez.
“We played two section teams in the regular season and one in the sectional tournament. I don’t expect teams to vote for our guys if they never played us or even saw us.”
In the conference-region configuration that existed for decades before being abolished in 2010, all teams in the region played one another, usually both at home and away.
That made all-region voting much simpler and probably very accurate.
For the Lady Longhorns, Hill was expected to be recognized, mostly because she led the team in scoring (11.2 ppg) and rebounding (15.2 rpg) and during the regular season set a school single game rebounding record.
She was also an exceptional all-around performer with 59 steals, 25 blocked shots and 19 assists.
Arissa Paulson was just a freshman, but that shouldn’t have precluded her from garnering plenty of votes. As one of the most tenacious players in the division this past season, she averaged 10.8 points and 9 rpg, both second on the team to Hill. The fabulous frosh also had 53 steals and 43 blocked shots.
For the boys team, Hintze — a senior — led in scoring (16.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.5 rpg) and was generally regarded as one of the best so-called “Big Men” in small-school ranks.
As a sophomore and junior, Hintze was an all-region, all-conference and all-section pick.
Last season, his exploits at the offensive end of the floor often prompted opposing coaches to double- and triple-team him.
Lopez, also a standout on the Horn soccer team that advanced to the state semifinals, was one of the more hardnosed players in S-III. His scoring average of 14.2 ppg seemingly should have impressed voting coaches, as would his 35 three-pointers.
Sanchez contends the system failed the players, “It’s sad because Tanner and Guillermo deserved some recognition.”
Coaches around the state have lobbied for months to have school ADs and the AIA arrange schedules in the next two-year block so that every section team plays each other at least once.
That appears to be a priority for school officials and should eliminate the problems that occurred this season in all-section voting.
The boys D-III All-Section III first-team slots went to Jorrell Smith (Cortez), Clay Crookham (Scottsdale Christian), Brandon Hageman (Valley Christina), Matt Cronn (River Valley), T. J. Widner (Valley Christian) and Devon Hawkins (Estrella Foothills).
Smith was all named the Section III Player of the Year.
In an 89-71 Section III tournament win over Payson in early February, Smith lit up the Horns for 36 points.
The girls Division III All-Section III honorees included Tana Kemmer (Valley Christian), Savannah Eklund (Estrella Foothills), Amanda Showers (Camp Verde), Brooke Yost (Fountain Hills), Natalie Stilwell (Fountain Hills) and Allesandra Fuller (Buckeye).
Eklund was named the S-III Player of the Year.