Jeremy Chavez and his teammates knew this was the quarter.
It was time to finish it.
And the third quarter was pivotal.
It’s a quarter these hungry Longhorns entered Tuesday night with nothing but bad thoughts about.
In their first two games, they watched a pair of promising starts turn into defeats. Lopsided defeats.
So, they intended to change that script in game three against Chino Valley.
They started strong, once again.
But, unlike the first two games, they held their own in quarter #2. The Cougars outscored them in the eight-minute stretch, but just 11-9.
And in control.
Yes, these Longhorns flipped that script in this one.
And Chavez led the way.
The senior scored nine of his team-leading 13 points in the third quarter to lead Payson to a 17-10 advantage then left them holding a 13-point lead, 45-32.
And they finished the job with an 18-12 final quarter to wrap up a 63-44 win.
“Jeremy Chavez had a hell of a game tonight,” first-year Payson head coach Robert Mavis said.
“I mean, he was blocking stuff, he was scoring, we ran our whole offense through him.”
Chavez led the way offensively, but Mavis said it was a team effort.
“I was really happy with our performance,” the coach said. “It wasn’t just the guys on the court, it was our bench, too. Our bench came alive.
“I had total confidence in everybody and I just threw them out there and said, ‘Hey, let’s go to work.’”
Nine Longhorns scored. And they took turns contributing on the boards, too.
“We rebounded as a team, which was really good,” the coach said. “Everybody looked good. I mean, everybody was just solid tonight.”
Chavez, Payson’s 6-foot-3 forward, said they wanted to play well for four quarters for the first time.
“We started out rough (this year) and this win really helps us,” Chavez said. “It boosts our confidence. We just gotta keep the confidence up.”
And the way to do that is to just keep playing hard.
“We gotta not let off the gas and keep the same energy as we started (with),” he said. “We just gotta play how we play in the first quarter.”
The team captain knew it would be a good night before the opening tipoff.
“I noticed as soon as we came out of the locker room that the energy was there,” Chavez said. “It was insane and I just came out knowing that we were going to win the game.”
He said it was a total team effort.
“It was a pretty good night,” he said. “I just think it was team chemistry — we all worked as a team and we just all played well together.”
Yes, Mavis agreed.
“I think we’re on the upswing,” the coach said. “I mean, our first two games, they were learning curves. But tonight showed the boys that they really know what they can do when they all come together.”
There’s nothing like a win.
Problem is, Payson hasn’t enjoyed many the last few seasons. They went 3-12 a year ago and 4-22-1 overall in 2019-20. They went 0-18 in games that count in the rankings. Some of these seniors experienced that.
Including Chavez. The senior says Tuesday was just the beginning.
“We definitely needed a win, but this isn’t going to be our last win,” Chavez said. “There’s way more to come. I’m looking forward to the season.”
The Longhorns were set to make the long drive north to compete in the Page Holiday Classic Thursday, Dec. 9-Saturday, Dec. 11. They return home to face Camp Verde on Tuesday, Dec. 14.