Rushing Downcourt: Playoff Slot Near Certain

Girls basketball team continues climb up Division III rankings

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Payson’s Sara Novack looks to pass the ball against an aggressive Winslow defender as the Longhorns’ Tessa Hintze looks on during the Bulldogs’ 56-35 victory on Thursday.

What a difference a week makes.

Seven days ago, Payson’s girls basketball team entered a stretch of three games in four days at No. 28 in the Division III state power rankings and on the outside of the state tournament looking in.

Now, after going 2-1 in those pivotal games, the Longhorns appear to be a shoo-in to qualify for the 24-team tournament that begins next week.

As of Monday morning, PHS was No. 19 in the power rankings that are used to determine the state tournament field, although if a team outside of the top 24 wins one of the six sectional tournaments, that team earns an automatic bid and knocks out the No. 24 team. Of course, No. 23 would be booted out, as well, if another team unexpectedly walks away with a section championship.

So, it’s possible that as many as six teams could be squeezed out of the tournament. Of course, that’s highly unlikely since six teams not in the top 24 would have to all win section titles. That won’t happen. So, at 19, the Longhorns now have a solid grip on a tournament berth heading into a pair of games they should win.

PHS plays at Show Low (No. 54, 1-15 power rankings) tonight against a Cougars team it beat 40-25 at the Payson Invitational on Dec. 28 then dominated 41-8 in Payson on Jan. 11. The Longhorns close the regular season at home against Globe (No. 47, 5-11 power rankings) on Thursday night.

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Payson’s Arianna Paulson dribbles upcourt against Winslow’s Tannon Tom on Thursday night.

The Horns opened the week by upsetting then-No. 11 Whiteriver Alchesay 44-36 on Jan. 28. They next lost to No. 2 Winslow 56-35, but just playing the Bulldogs moved PHS up the rankings. And they climbed even higher with a 52-37 domination in Eagar of a Round Valley team (11-16 overall) that entered the game needing a win to try and stay in the state tournament hunt.

Payson is 10-15 overall and 7-9 in power ranking games.

PHS enters this week in sixth place in the Section IV standings. The top four teams, based on record in the eight section games, qualify for the section tournament at Show Low, with semifinal games at 5:15 and 7 p.m. on Feb. 11 and the championship game at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15. The Longhorns have a chance to qualify for that tournament if they win their final two games to finish 4-4 in the section and Blue Ridge loses tonight at Alchesay and Thursday at Round Valley; and Alchesay loses Friday at Holbrook. Blue Ridge and Alchesay are tied for fourth at 3-3. Since the first tie-breaker is a head-to-head performance, if Blue Ridge and Payson both finish 4-4, the Yellow Jackets would get the nod by virtue of their 41-39 win in Lakeside on Jan. 9. Payson did avenge that defeat with a 53-40 victory on Jan. 20, but that was a non-section game.

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Payson girls basketball varsity head coach Jennifer White talks strategy with her players during their game against Winslow on Thursday night.

If all three teams finish 4-4, they’d go to the second tie-breaker since all three teams would have gone 1-1 against the other two. The second tie-breaker is division standings. Alchesay would win that with a 10-5 record against Division III teams. Payson would be 7-9 and Blue Ridge 5-7.

From page 1B

The state tournament begins with first-round games at the high seed on Feb. 19.

Arissa Paulson scored a game-high 16 points to lead Payson against Winslow. Cori Barnett added nine points.

Shandiin Armao and Marcella Joe both scored 13 points to pace the Bulldogs.

Winslow 56, Payson 35

Winslow 56 — Michaela Bia 2 0-0 4, Katonya Begay 1 0-0 2, Marcella Joe 6 1-1 13, Stephanie Begody 1 0-0 2, Kennysha Jensen 0 0-0 0, Jacey Sangster 3 2-2 9, Tannon Tom 1 0-0 3, Halle Hayes 4 0-2 8, Shandiin Armao 4 5-8 13, Lynnae Mitchell 1 0-0 2, Kaelyn Bitsoi 0 0-2 0. Totals 23 8-15 56.

Payson 35 — Tessa Hintze 1 3-3 5, Harley Turney 1 1-2 3, Cori Barnett 4 1-3 9, Arianna Paulson 1 0-0 2, Arissa Paulson 4 8-9 16, Sara Novack 0 0-0 0, Sadie Dunman 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 13-17 35.

Winslow 18 9 14 15 — 56

Payson 14 4 2 15 — 35

3-point goals — W: Sangster, Tom. P: none.

Div. III Section IV Girls Basketball

Section PR Games

W L GB W L PR

Winslow 7 0 — 14 2 2

Snowflake 6 0 0.5 10 5 16

Holbrook 5 1 1.5 12 4 8

Alchesay 3 3 3.5 11 5 14

Blue Ridge 3 3 3.5 8 8 29

Payson 2 4 4.5 7 9 19

Round Valley 1 5 5.5 7 9 28

Globe 1 5 5.5 5 11 47

Show Low 0 7 7 1 15 54

Tuesday, Feb. 4

Section IV games

Round Valley at Globe, 5:30 p.m.

Payson at Show Low, 6 p.m.

Blue Ridge at Alchesay, 6 p.m.

Holbrook at Snowflake, 6 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 6:

Section IV games

Globe at Payson, 6 p.m.

Blue Ridge at Round Valley, 6 p.m.

Non-section game

Show Low at Snowflake, 6 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 7

Section IV games

Alchesay at Holbrook, 6 p.m.

Winslow at Snowflake, 6 p.m.

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