The Panthers lacked their usual bite Tuesday night, losing a 63-52 non-conference basketball contest to the Valley Vikings in Hazelton.
But at 17-3, the Carey High School boy's basketball squad is still in great shape for this week's Northside Conference tournament, as the #1 seeded Panthers enter play tonight with an 11-1 conference record.
Panther coach Dick Simpson said his boys may have been looking ahead to upcoming tournament play and overlooked a hungry 5-15 Viking team, who the Panthers defeated twice this season.
"I just don't think we mentally prepared ourselves for the game," Simpson said Wednesday. "We didn't show up and play as well as we should have, and Valley played really well last night."
Having senior Brad Hunt on the sidelines didn't help matters for the Panthers, although the Carey boys typically step up and fill the gaps when one of their stars is down.
Hunt was sidelined for the Valley match, as he was for a game last week against Shoshone, after he rolled an ankle in practice on Thursday, Feb. 1.
An injury to senior Tyler Park, who rolled an ankle early in the Valley game, added to the Panther misfortunes, but Simpson expects both Hunt and Park be ready and able for tournament play.
Junior D.J. Simpson was the leading Panther scorer with 14 points. Senior Cody Baird contributed 12. Other Carey scorers were James Carlson with eight, Allen Peck with seven, Blake Whitby with six, Tyler Wilde with three and Kade Peterson with two.
The Vikings were led by Senior Mikel Kincaid with 26 points.
The conference tournament, hosted by Shoshone, started Thursday. The Community School, the #5 seed, played #4 seeded Dietrich. Bliss, seeded at #3, took on #6 seeded Shoshone and #7 seeded Camas went up against Richfield in the #2 slot.
Carey will play the winner of The Community School and Dietrich contest tonight at 5 p.m.
Tournament play will continue on Saturday. The championship match is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday.
"It's going to be a good tournament," said Simpson. "We're going to have to show up and play our best or somebody is going to beat us."