Fresh off its state eight-man football championship, the Mackay Miners came to Carey's Holiday Tournament last weekend with a swagger.
But Mackay learned humility by the time Saturday's championship game against Carey was all over. The Miners (1-1), last winter's State 1A basketball runner-up, got an early-season wake-up call with a 67-60 overtime loss to Carey (3-0).
It was Carey's first victory in its own holiday tournament since 1996, when the Panthers beat Mackay 45-39. Since that time, Mackay has won the tournament five times including three in a row from 2002-04.
To show Mackay's dominance prior to last weekend, the Miners had beaten Carey three times in the title game since 1996 and had lost only once to the Panthers, 65-60 (OT) in an opening-round tourney game in 2000.
But Carey reversed the Mackay curse Saturday night.
Senior Panther guard Tyler Cook (13-for-15 at the line including 6-for-6 OT) finished with a game-high 31 points including four 3-pointers.
Carey players, truly the underdogs, apparently didn't read the laundry list of things stacked against them. Coach Dick Simpson's Panthers went out and left everything on the floor in an amazing comeback.
"The kids got into it a little," said coach Simpson afterward, in a bit of an understatement.
Trailing by 15 points at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Carey's defense went to work and completely shut down the Miners (9 turnovers in the fourth and OT). Five different Panthers scored as Carey methodically pecked away at Mackay's lead.
"At halftime I asked them to leave it on the floor, and I reemphasized it at the beginning of the fourth quarter," said Simpson about his resilient squad. "We spread the floor and tried this and tried that. We decided to bring it up and throw it up and hope something good happened. It did."
Mackay, apparently invincible with its close-cropped blond-hair and football intimidation thing working its wonders, outscored Carey 30-15 in the middle quarters but didn't score a single field goal for the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Miners out-rebounded Carey 48-25, but it was a game when that lopsided statistic was misleading. That's because of turnovers (Mackay 19 and Carey just 12) and Carey's free throw advantage (21-for-30 compared to Mackay's 9-for-22).
One of the major factors was a terrific defensive job by Carey senior Bryan Hill on Mackay's 6-6 guard Kelvin Krosch. Krosch (17 points, 13 rebounds) didn't score a field goal in the fourth quarter and most of the four-minute OT. He finally made a meaningless basket at the buzzer.
"Bryan did a great job on Kelvin," said Simpson. "And our defense got Mackay out of its rhythm."
Steals and baskets by Tadd Green and Bryan Hill cut the Miner lead to 50-45. Last year's Carey top scorer Green, in foul trouble all game, finally fouled out with 4:33 left. That's when Tyler Cook and Allen Peck stepped up and provided leadership.
Peck banged home a 3-pointer, from Cook, then Peck tied it 50-50 by hitting two free throws on a one-and-one situation. Carey players had ice in their veins at the charity stripe, making 14-of-14 from the line in the fourth and OT including 8-for-8 OT.
Then, Carey took its first lead since the second quarter when Peck stole the ball and passed to Carey sophomore D.J. Simpson, who was fouled by Krosch. Simpson calmly stepped to the stripe and made both charities for a 52-50 lead with 1:16 left. It capped an amazing 20-3 run.
Mackay, showing signs of its physical prowess and championship make-up, stormed back on Devin Pearson's putback for a 52-52 tie. Senior Jared Gillish (12 points, 5 boards) gave Mackay a 54-52 lead with 16 seconds remaining. It looked like Carey's great run was done.
With eight seconds left, Cook made a full-court, Hail Mary football-type inbounds pass that D.J. Simpson lassoed inside the 3-point circle. Simpson caught the pass and knew he had to run back out behind the circle to get off Carey's only prayer for a tie. He made it in time and launched a 3-pointer that swished home for a 55-55 tie.
"That was the kind of shot D.J. made to win the JV game over Oakley a couple of days ago," his father, coach Simpson said.
This time, it gave Carey new life.
In overtime, Carey's offense kept the ball moving around the perimeter and Cook made two charities at 2:46. Mackay's top scorer Levi Donahue (23 points, 12 rebounds) hit a 17-footer for a 57-57 game, then Hill made an amazing defensive play.
Hill stripped the ball from Krosch near midcourt and Carey went into its motion offense. When Panther junior James Carlson got the ball, nobody expected him to do anything but pass. But Carlson noticed a seam in Mackay's defense and went hard to the basket for his only two-pointer of the game and a 59-57 Carey lead.
"Mackay defensed us real tough all game," said Simpson about the pressure put on Carey's leading scorers Green and Cook all game. "So everybody else had to step it up. I think we learned we can play without relying on one or two individuals.
That's what this group likes to do."
The victory wasn't assured until Cook saw another seam in the Miner defense and drove for a basket and 61-58 lead at 0:58, then Peck stole a Mackay lob pass and made two free throws when fouled. Four more Cook free throws as time ran out gave Carey a 67-58 lead, then Krosch made a final bucket at the end.
"It was a big win for us," said Simpson, whose team made eight 3-pointers and averages eight a game.
Carey contributors were Cook (31 points, 4 boards, 2 steals, 2 assists), D.J. Simpson (11 points, three 3-pointers), Peck (10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 5 assists), Green (7 points, 3 boards, 4 steals), Carlson (2 points, 6 rebounds), Tyler Parke (2 points, 4 boards), Cody Baird 2 points and Hill (2 points, 3 boards, 2 steals).
Friday night, Carey broke up a close opening-round game with a 18-9 third-quarter surge and beat Challis 63-54. Cook had 21 points including five 3-pointers. Green added 13 points, Peck 10 (three 3-pointers), Carlson 9 (one 3-pointer), Baird 4, D.J. Simpson 4 and Parke 2. Frank Phillips and Jordan Crane had 14 points apiece for the Vikings.
Mackay won its first game 49-37 over Hansen Friday night.
In Saturday's boys' JV consolation game, Carey (2-1) had 11 different scorers en route to a 45-19 victory over Mackay. Heath Adamson tallied 14 points, Tyler Parke 7, Jordan Surerus 4, Scott Ellsworth 3 and Wulf Lebrecht 3 to lead Carey.
Friday night, eventual champion Challis defeated Carey 50-33 despite 11 points by Blake Whitby, 9 by D.J. Simpson and 8 by Tyler Parke.
Carey fans were still buzzing over Wednesday's thrilling 47-46 come-from-behind JV win at Oakley. The Panthers rallied from an 11-point half-time deficit and won on D.J. Simpson's 3-pointer. Kade Peterson added 10 points and Tyler Parke had all 9 of his points after the half.