A fourth quarter scoring surge propelled the Carey High School boys' basketball team to a 59-49 win over the Bliss Bears Tuesday and earned the Panthers a trip to the state 1A tournament.
The victory came in the final game of the Northside District Tournament, hosted by Shoshone. It was do or die for the 19-4 Panthers—win and they go to state, lose and the season's over.
The feisty Bears put a scare into the Panther boys, who trailed most of the game and went into the final frame down by three points.
But the Panther boys, the same kids who won a state 1A football championship earlier this school year, weren't ready to call it quits. They connected on eight of nine field goal attempts in the final quarter to outscore the Bears 24-11 and win the trip to state.
"They (Bliss) had the lead pretty well the whole game," Panther coach Dick Simpson said Wednesday. "It took us a while to get the ball on track."
Although the Panthers had defeated Bliss twice this season, the Bears were not a team they could take lightly.
"Bliss had nothing to lose," said Simpson. "They made it a lot farther than anyone thought they would, and they played that way. They weren't going to lie down and make it easy for us."
Bliss had the lead at the end of each of the first three frames. They led 13 to 11 after the first, 30-24 at half and 38-35 after three.
Three Panthers scored in double digits. Seniors Allen Peck and Brad Hunt had 15 and 14 respectively and junior D.J. Simpson scored 10.
Also contributing to the Carey victory were junior Tyler Parke and senior James Carlson with eight points each and senior Cody Baird with four.
Michael Falkner led the Bears with 15 points.
The state 1A basketball tournament starts on February 28 in Caldwell. But before that, the Panthers have to play one more game to determine seeding from the Magic Valley Conference.
On Thursday, Feb. 22, Carey plays Southside Conference runner-up Murtaugh to determine the three and four seeds for state tournament play. Game time is 6 p.m. at Shoshone. Following the Carey-Murtaugh clash at 7:30 p.m. is a game between Richfield and Hagerman to determine the number one and two seeds.
Carey hasn't played Murtaugh this year and Simpson looks forward to another tough game.
"They're playing pretty good basketball this year," he said of the Murtaugh Red Devils. "From here on out nothing's easy. What we've done before doesn't matter at all. It's just like a whole new season."