Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Northside a good test for Carey boys

Tough league challenges 2007-08 Panthers

Express Staff Writer

Senior D.J. Simpson will be a force for the Carey Panthers on the basketball court this winter. Simpson led Carey to a 34-24 victory over Hagerman in Saturday?s jamboree match-up on the Panther floor. Carey visited Gooding Tuesday night. Photo by David N. Seelig

It's way too early to be talking about the State 1A boys' basketball tournament for the nearly perennial state qualifier Carey School boys, especially with the challenges coming up in the tough Northside Conference during the 2007-08 winter.

Seventh-year Carey head coach Dick Simpson (129-29) isn't talking about his team's state prospects at all—despite the fact powerhouse Carey cage teams (300-120 in 17 seasons since 1991) have made 11 state tournament trips in 15 years.

That's because Simpson has a time-tested formula for focusing on immediate goals, just so the boys and the coaching staff don't get ahead of themselves.

He said, "We play 20 games, 10 at home. We want to win all of the home games and half the road games and that usually puts us in the hunt."

With all of Carey's success—12-8 in state tournament games the last five trips, back-to-back 24-3 and 22-6 seasons and three Northside titles in five years—the make-up of Carey's varsity is different each year. It certainly makes it interesting.

This time around, coach Simpson has welcomed 26 boys out for basketball out of the 40 boys in the small high school.

Here's what he doesn't have:

Simpson doesn't have a strong post player like Tadd Green or Blake Surerus. He doesn't have a pure outside shooter like Ty Simmons or Tyler Cook. He doesn't have solid athletes like Allen Peck, Brad Hunt, James Carlson and Cody Baird, seniors who combined to average 39 points per game out of Carey's 59.0 ppg offensive average last winter.

What Simpson does have on the 2007-08 squad that kicked off its season Tuesday at 3A Gooding are seven seniors, two juniors and two sophomores—and not a tried-and-true post player among the bunch.

"In all reality we could start five guards," Simpson said. "We'll post up different kids inside, use a lot of movement and try to find mismatches. We still have quite a bit of speed and enough bench to go seven or eight kids deep. We'll pressure a little more and try to push the ball for 32 minutes. I hope to create some problems for the other teams."

Bereft of returning scoring stars, the lunch pail Panthers will have to get plenty out of versatile 6-3 senior D.J. Simpson (5.5 ppg sophomore, 8.6 ppg last season, 9.4 ppg in eight state tournament games) to succeed in the Northside Conference battles. Simpson was second-team All-Conference.

"D.J. is a third-year varsity player who'll have to do a lot for us," said his father, coach Simpson.

"He has quickness, jumping ability and leadership skills. He makes good decisions and sees the floor well. I think he's got some potential to take over some games, but it will be new turf for him to play inside."

You can never tell when your shooting will go south, so it's okay to have a scrappy team that needs to capitalize on little things to score.

Last winter, Carey shot a lofty 40% from the field in the season but got down to state in Caldwell and averaged 30% in four games compared to 45% for its opponents. The result? Two state wins and two losses for a second straight year.

Coach Simpson said, "We'll definitely have to use our defense to create some offense and get a lot of easy lay-ups. We'll just have to push the ball and take advantage."

Having two sophomores at the guard position will be trial by fire. They are 5-11 Dillon Simpson and 5-11 Trevor Peck.

A point guard, D.J.'s younger brother Dillon is a good ballhandler, has decent quickness and defensive ability and sees the floor well, despite being partially blind since middle school after being hit in the side of the head by a basketball, his father said. And Peck can drill the three-ball.

Speedy Blake Whitby, a 5-7 senior who'll play some point guard and steal more than his share of balls, "gives you everything he's got on the court," the coach said.

And 6-1 senior Tyler Parke (5.5 ppg) has a knack of being in the right place at the right time. "Tyler hangs around and has a tendency to get in the right place," coach Simpson said. "He's got experience in big games and a pretty good jump shot from 10 feet."

Completing Carey's top seven are two hard-working seniors, 6-1 Kade Peterson and 5-9 Scott Ellsworth. Other varsity players are 6-6 senior Tyler Wilde, 5-10 junior Heith Adamson, 6-2 senior Jordan Surerus and 5-7 junior Jared Cenarrusa.

It's not a sure thing, but there's a reasonable chance Carey and Richfield could end up in the championship game of the Northside tourney for a fifth straight year. It would be Carey's turn to win, judging by past tournament history.

Richfield beat Carey in 2007 and 2005, winning by three points each year. Carey downed Richfield in 2006 by seven points and in 2004 by 19. The last time it wasn't Carey and Richfield in the title game was in 2003, when Simpson's Panthers nipped The Community School of Sun Valley 45-41.

The Community School, Dietrich and Shoshone will all contend this season, Simpson said, but Richfield's returning players will make coach Garr Ward's Tigers a team to beat.

"Richfield has quite a bit back and they've got some shooters. They're well coached. We'll definitely have to step up and play some defense to beat them," said Simpson.

The returning Tiger sharpshooters include sophomore Michael Lezamiz, junior Tel Clark and first-team All-Conference senior Braiden Buckner. They combined for 44 of Richfield's 53 points in their 53-37 victory over Hagerman in the 2007 Fourth District championship game.

On Monday night, Richfield opened with a 80-58 triumph over Castleford behind 20 points by Michael Lezamiz.

One other thing to watch: This is the final year that the 1A small school ranks will have a 16-team state tournament. That's because 1A in basketball will split into Division 1 and 2 starting in 2009, Carey and Richfield staying in Division 2.

That will equalize things a little in 1A, since 100-and-plus student enrollment schools like reigning State 1A king Genesee and consolation winner Troy will be Division 1 under the new formula. Genesee and Troy defeated Carey at state in 2007.

It will also mean the end of the long-standing Northside and Southside conference tourneys in their current format that have settled the issue of Fourth District qualifiers and seeding for the state meet.

Meanwhile, fifth-year junior varsity coach Danny Simpson has welcomed 14 boys, seven sophomores and seven freshmen, to his squad.

Last year's Carey JV finished 15-3. They outscored opponents 50-35 on the average but saw the school's three-year Northside JV tournament championship streak come to an end with a 54-45 loss to Dietrich on the Shoshone floor.

The sophomores are 6-3 Wacey Barg, 6-2 Tyler Willis, 6-0 Tyler Chavez, 5-8 Gonzalo Zarate, 5-8 Todd Peck, 5-7 Brett Adamson and 5-6 Brad Peck.

Panther freshmen with a four-game schedule this season (two games against Gooding and two more with ISDB) are 6-0 Jacy Baird, Antonio Gamino, Blair Peck, Shane Bingham, Caleb Cenarrusa, Brandon Dilworth and Joe Laidlaw.

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