Girls Shock Falcons To Keep Tourney Bid Alive

PHS gets huge win

Payson players Tessa Hintze (5), Arianna Paulson (22) and Cori Barnett head to the sideline to celebrate with head coach Jennifer White and teammates after upsetting Whiteriver Alchesay on Tuesday night.

Payson players Tessa Hintze (5), Arianna Paulson (22) and Cori Barnett head to the sideline to celebrate with head coach Jennifer White and teammates after upsetting Whiteriver Alchesay on Tuesday night. Photo by Keith Morris. |

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At No. 27 in the Division III state power rankings, Payson’s girls basketball team entered the final two weeks of the regular season with no margin for error.

With five games remaining, it appeared the Longhorns might just need to win all five to keep their state tournament hopes alive.

And the biggest challenges came right off the bat this week as the Longhorns faced No. 11 Whiteriver Alchesay Tuesday and defending state champion and second-ranked Winslow on Thursday.

PHS passed the first test by upsetting Alchesay 44-36 on Tuesday night.

Unfortunately, due to the arcane machination of the power rankings — that major upset boosted the Longhorns only one spot — to No. 26, while dropping Alchesay just one spot to No. 12.

By strange contrast, Round Valley somehow leapfrogged over the Longhorns (9-14) from No. 28 to No. 25 by beating No. 54 Show Low.

Must be the new math — or irrational numbers.

Sometimes, the power rankings look like someone reading chicken entrails — but it means with Tuesday’s win the Longhorns still have a chance to make the state tournament.

It’s possible the Horns could still slip into the postseason without beating Winslow, but a win over the mighty Bulldogs certainly would vault them into the top 24.

The top 24 teams go to the state tournament — unless a lower-ranking team wins one of the six sectional tournaments. All six sectional winners go to state, plus the next 18 teams based on the mysterious power rankings.

The Tuesday upset gave the Longhorns a huge boost going into the even tougher match against Winslow, with a win against a top school.

Second-half collapses have cost Payson in several games this season. But on Tuesday the Longhorns jumped out to a 12-7 lead after one quarter before Alchesay battled back to pull within two points, 20-18, by intermission. This time, the Longhorns didn’t crumble down the stretch. They outscored the Falcons 13-7 in the third quarter to take an eight-point lead, and scored 24 points over the final 16 minutes, while the Falcons managed just 18.

“That was excellent,” said senior point guard Arianna Paulson, who scored 10 points. “We haven’t been playing well at the end of a lot of games and tonight we did. We just really came together at the end.”

Alchesay coach Shine Burnette was impressed by the Longhorns’ tenacity.

“They played pretty well,” Burnette said. “They just kept playing throughout the whole game, even when we caught up.”

Sophomore Tessa Hintze scored seven of her team-high 11 points in the second half for PHS. Sophomore Arissa Paulson scored six of her nine points in the first quarter. Senior co-captain Harley Turney added eight points for PHS.

“I was pretty confident because we really needed this win,” Turney said. “All the girls were fired up. We played our hearts out. I’m just really proud. I haven’t seen us work that hard in a long time.”

The Falcons entered the game on a three-game winning streak since losing 51-49 at Snowflake on Jan. 16. However, the Longhorns dropped them to 17-8.

PHS is at Round Valley tonight at 6 o’clock and at Show Low on Tuesday before closing the regular season with a home game against No. 46 Globe on Thursday, Feb. 6.

PHS had lost two in a row, four of five and six of eight since beating No. 16 Snowflake 66-61 in overtime on Jan. 3 in what had been their most impressive victory. They also beat No. 27 Blue Ridge 53-40 on Jan. 20.

Tuesday’s victory kept alive an outside chance the Horns will make the sectional tournament, with four games remaining. At the sectional competition, they’d likely face Winslow and Snowflake, both with 5-0 records after Tuesday’s games. In the sectionals, the Longhorns on Wednesday stood in sixth place (1-3) after Tuesday’s win. Holbrook was third at 5-1, Blue Ridge fourth 3-2 and Alchesay fifth at 2-3.

PHS won without senior co-captain Savannah Grassel, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in practice on Jan. 22 that will limit her physical activity for six months.

Patricia Tessay had a game-high 16 points for Alchesay, but no other Falcon scored more than seven points after senior guard Raeleigh Johnson left the game with an injury in the third quarter.

Payson 44, Alchesay 36

Alchesay 36 – Raeleigh Johnson 3 0-1 7, Rayell Leonard 0 0-0 0, Lonnell Fall 0 0-0 0, Janie Sanchez 0 1-2 1, C. Dale 0 0-0 0, Chandler Lee 1 0-2 2, A. George 0 0-0 0, Evette George 2 1-2 6, Patricia Tessay 6 4-6 16, Tasha Altaha 0 0-0 0, R. Dailzote 0 0-0 0, Tenestia Tenijieth 2 0-0 4. Totals 14 6-13 36.

Payson 44 – Tessa Hintze 4 2-4 11, Harley Turney 4 0-0 8, Cori Barnett 2 0-0 4, Arianna Paulson 5 0-0 10, Arissa Paulson 4 1-3 9, Sara Novack 1 0-1 2, Sadie Dunman 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 3-8 44.

Alchesay 7 11 7 11 — 36

Payson 12 8 13 11 — 44

3-point goals — A: Johnson, E. George. P: Hintze.

Div. III Section IV

Girls Basketball

Section PR Games

W L GB W L PR

Winslow 5 0 — 12 2 2

Snowflake 5 0 — 8 5 16

Holbrook 5 1 0.5 11 3 6

Blue Ridge 3 2 2 8 6 27

Alchesay 2 3 3 10 5 11

Payson 1 3 3.5 6 8 28

Round Valley 1 4 4 5 8 25

Globe 1 4 4 5 10 46

Show Low 0 6 5.5 1 13 54

PR-Power ranking

Note: Top four teams in section standings qualify for section tournament

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