What seemed like a lock for a regional title after 3 quarters Friday night quickly turned to chaos for Payson-Seymour. The Liberty Eagles weren't going quietly, storming back after trailing by 18 points with under 5 to play. A late timeout from the Indians helped change that.
"We came into the timeout saying 'we're not going to lose, we're not going to choke again, this isn't happening, this is ours to take,'"
"They came off the floor saying 'we're not going to lose this game, we're not going to lose," and I told them that's the wrong attitude. Get that out of your head and think about winning this game,"
"We just need to play to win, not to not lose, and we had a lot of confidence in ourselves and the whole team,"
It took all 32 minutes, but Payson avenged a 2-point loss in the same matchup a year ago with a 63-57 win. In doing so, the regional trophy touched Payson hands for the first time in 20 years.
"We put in a lot of work and played so many games over the summer, a lot of work in the weight room and practice after school. A lot of work put in and we finally earned one and deserved it,"
"It means the world to us. It was a lot of hard work; we started playing in June and put in a lot of hard work in the offseason and its definitely paying off,"
"It means a lot to me, but it means a lot to these kids, this school, this community, especially these fans. These guys weren't even thought of at the time that we won the last regional so its big for us,"
The history-makers now have Elmwood standing in their way on Tuesday.
"They've got some really good shooters. They play a 1-2-2 zone, some pressure-man at times and things like that, so its going to be similar to playing Liberty. With their size, they're about 6'1, 6'2 across the board and lanky, good shooters,"
And looking back, the Indians have a tendency to embrace the unfamiliar. Meaning, its hard to fall into old habits when you have none against your next opponent.
"The good thing is that we seem to play better against teams we know nothing about, rather than the teams we play 4 or 5 times a year,"
"I think its kind of like a summer game, we were very successful then because we didn't know our opponent and they didn't know us, so I guess we'll see how we do,"
"All I know is we have to close out games better. Our defense is stepping up and we've got guys making plays and getting rebounds, we've got to be able to finish it out and make some free throws towards the end,"
"I'm looking forward to it, the kids are looking forward to it, they're pretty emotionally-high right now, and we're just going to try and keep it even-keeled and go do our business,"