Denver White began the season with his team running a man-to-man defense.
Just like he’s always run.
But after watching the Longhorns struggle in the early going this season, the first-year Payson varsity boys basketball head coach switched things up.
The Longhorns have gone to a zone in recent games.
It seems to have helped slow opponents down.
The Longhorns outscored visiting Show Low in the second half on Tuesday at Wilson Dome.
However, the Cougars dominated Payson 16-4 in the second quarter to take command. Show Low went on to post a 55-41 victory in the 3A East Region opener for both teams.
The home team got off a pretty good start, taking 5-2 lead on a Julian Parker three-pointer and going ahead 7-4 on a Rayce Mathews’ field goal.
Atreyu Glasscock’s basket in the paint had Payson ahead 9-6.
But the visitors took over from there, ending the half on a 27-8 run to take a 33-17 advantage into the dressing room.
Trent Williams drained a trey with 3:49 to play in the opening quarter give Show Low an 11-9 lead.
The Cougars went ahead to stay 13-11 on a Rhett Ricedorff jumper with 1:27 left in the first quarter.
Ricedorff scored 16 points to lead a trio of Cougars in double figures as Show Low improved to 8-3 overall. Jakob Tate and Xavier Vargas added 13 points apiece for Show Low.
Ryan Ricke scored 10 points, Parker nine and Korben White eight to pace the Longhorns.
Show Low coach Matt Thacker said it was Ricedorff’s defensive effort against Ricke as much as his offense that loomed large in the victory.
“A key was Rhett’s defense on Ryan,” Thacker said. “I thought Rhett played defensively very tough.
“(Ricke’s) a big-time scorer and (Rhett) was willing to kind of change hats there a little bit wanting to be a defensive stopper on a nice big player. So that was important.”
Payson fell to 2-12 overall with its fourth consecutive loss.
However, the Longhorns were much more competitive than they were in their previous game, a 74-40 thrashing by Fountain Hills on Dec. 16.
The defense improved, but the offense has been held to two of its worst games of the season the past two outings. The only game the Horns managed fewer points in came in a 64-37 setback to Chandler Valley Christian in the Flagstaff Tournament on Dec. 9.
Payson was scheduled to close the 2016 portion of the schedule at Page on Thursday, Dec. 22.
The Longhorns return to action in a 3A East contest at Snowflake on Jan. 6. They return home to face region foe Winslow at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10.