Payson’s girls basketball team seemed poised to start the season 2-0.

The Longhorns led visiting Arizona College Prep by 12 points, 26-14, at halftime.

But games last for 32 minutes, not 16, and ACP dominated the second half, outscoring Payson 27-14 in the second half to escape with a 41-40 victory.

The Horns struggled offensively in the second half, scoring just four points in the third quarter. ACP scored eight in the period and still trailed by eight, 30-22, with eight minutes to go.

The visitors outscored Payson 19-10 in the final quarter to escape with the win.

ACP tied it 34-34 with 3:14 remaining and went up 36-34 with 2:39 on the clock. Kyla Cline tied it with a pair of free throws with 1:25 left. ACP freshman Victoria Benito sank a baseline jumper to put her team ahead 38-36 with 1:16 to play. Cline answered with a putback to tie it again with 1:03 left.

ACP freshman Jaylee Aulds stole a pass and dished to Carmella Baldwin, who drained a three-pointer to put the Knights up 41-38 with 37 seconds left. The Horns made a basket with 21 seconds to play but missed a chance to take the lead when a shot in the paint missed and the possession arrow went to ACP on a jump ball. The Knights inbounded the ball with 3.4 seconds remaining and retained possession when the inbounds pass went out of bounds off a Longhorn with 1.1 on the clock. The Knights inbounded the pass and ran out the final 1.1 seconds.

Cadence White left the game with an injury in the fourth quarter and watched the final minutes from the bench.

Turnovers were a problem for the Longhorns, who had 37.

Baldwin scored 13 of her game-high 20 points in the second half to lead ACP, including nine in the final quarter.

Trinity Glasscock scored 14 points for Payson. She scored eight points to lead Payson to a 16-7 second quarter scoring advantage. Cline produced seven of her 11 points in the first half.

But the Longhorns didn’t get enough offense from the rest of the team as no one else managed more than Emmy Whaley’s five points.

“I am extremely proud of how the girls fought and competed,” Miles Huff said of the Longhorns. “They never gave up and stayed together, even when we lost the lead. I thought we played well in stretches. We rebounded well but gave up way too many offensive rebounds to ACP.

Payson out-rebounded ACP 58-48. The Longhorns blocked eight shots.

“Turnovers cost us and allowed ACP to fight their way back into the game,” Huff said. “I give them credit, they are a well-coached team who made shots when it mattered.

“We are still learning and growing as a team. Part of that is learning how to finish close games. We will stay positive, learn from our mistakes, and bounce back (this) week.”

The Longhorns (1-1) look to get back in the win column when they host Chino Valley (1-3) at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 7.

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