With newfound inside strength, you might keep an eye on the Carey High School Panthers at the State 1A Division 2 boys’ basketball tournament starting Thursday, Feb. 28 at Caldwell High School.
Carey opens the eight-school tournament Thursday at 1:15 p.m. against the northern Idaho champion Kootenai Warriors (8-10), the same program Carey defeated 58-38 in its opening state game last year en route to second place in the tourney.
Kootenai played with only two seniors in its two-and-out state visit in 2012, but the Warriors earned their fourth straight trip to state last Wednesday at Coeur d’Alene with a 46-43 victory over Clark Fork (6-15) behind 16 points by sophomore post Boone Benson.
Meanwhile, 12th-year coach Dick Simpson’s Panthers (15-9) earned the program’s 17th state tournament berth in the last 21 seasons with a 67-61 victory over Lighthouse Christian Academy last Thursday at Gooding High School gym.
Playing a big role in the triumph that gave Carey second place in the Northside Conference tournament was 6-2 freshman post Joe Parke. He scored a team high 21 points with an amazing 22 rebounds plus a pair of blocked shots.
He has given Carey a completely different dimension since joining the varsity in the second half of the season and has increasingly played a bigger role. Averaging 6.4 ppg, he led Carey at 16.8 ppg in four Northside tourney games, three of them turning into wins.
“It’s kind of nice to win the rebounding battle occasionally,” said Simpson, whose Panthers out-rebounded Lighthouse 51-32 Thursday and 50-28 in their previous tournament tussle, a 69-50 home win Feb. 18.
“Joe played real well. He’s a long-armed guy. We haven’t had a post player like him for a while,” said Simpson, who started the season with what he then called a five-guard offense. “To be successful shooting from the outside, we have to pound the ball inside.”
Although Carey has seven seniors, the go-to players in Thursday’s third win of the season over Lighthouse (18-8) were freshman Parke and the team’s sophomores—forward Matt Whitworth (11 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 assists) and guard Nate Adamson (10 points, 12 boards, 5 assists).
The ball-handling ability of Adamson and his knack for creating plays have precluded teams like Lighthouse from pressing Carey. It lets the Panthers create inside-and-outside attacks in their half-court offense while springing for an occasional transition basket.
Carey can feed the ball inside to Whitworth and Parke. If they miss, seniors Poncho Gamino (2 points, 3 rebounds) and Patrick Baird (6 points, 4 boards) can retrieve the ball.
And Carey has three players who can shoot 3-pointers—Adamson, senior Jordan Dilworth (8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 7 assists against Lighthouse) and Sheldon Hansen (5 points, 2 steals, 2 assists, 2 blocks). Together, they have 84 of Carey’s 100 3-pointers this season.
Thursday’s state-qualifying battle was close with 11 lead changes and five ties until midway through the third period. Carey was ice cold shooting from the field in the first half and settled for a 30-29 lead, mainly due to Parke’s 12. But the in-your-face defense of Dilworth on Lions’ streak shooter Erick Helman (26 points, six 3s) took its toll and Carey started pulling away in the fourth.
Carey made 12-of-13 free throws in its 20-point fourth quarter and finished 18-of-26 at the line, compared to 2-of-8 for Lighthouse. And on Saturday, the Mackay Miners ended Lighthouse’s season 69-63 in a state play-in at American Falls.
Does Carey (9-3 at state with 4 straight trophies since 2009) have thoughts of making its fourth state title game in four years? Simpson said, “We have one thing in mind and that’s to win. State isn’t a vacation. We’ve got to win that first game, and then either Sho-Ban or Salmon River won’t be a picnic in the semi-final.”
Other first-round state games at Caldwell Thursday:
Sho-Ban (16-3) vs. Salmon River (22-1) at 3 p.m. Thursday; defending champion Nezperce (15-5) vs. Mackay (14-8) at 6:15 p.m.; and Northside champion Dietrich (21-2) vs. Kendrick (16-8) at 8 p.m.
Friday’s 1:15 p.m. semi-final at Caldwell has the winner of Carey-Kootenai vs, the Sho-Ban-Salmon River winner. The 3 p.m. semi-final has the Nezperce-Mackay winner vs. Dietrich-Kendrick winner.
Championship game is 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Idaho Center in Nampa.