With snow piled up outside and still coming down, spectators kicked the white stuff off their boots and jammed in to Carey High School gym Tuesday to watch the second showdown between the top two 1A boys' basketball teams in Idaho.
Only the red-shirted Richfield Tigers were red hot with their shots, however. Coach Garr Ward's undefeated and top-ranked Tigers (18-0, 10-0 league) raced to a 30-16 halftime lead and whipped the #2-ranked Panthers (14-3, 9-2) by a score of 48-40 to earn the tournament top seed.
Carey's six-game winning streak came to an end as Richfield held the Panther 55.1 ppg offense to a season-low 40 points. The Tigers limited Carey senior D.J. Simpson (14.9 ppg) to 11 points and made the Panthers work hard for everything they got.
The Richfield victory also ended Carey's home boast of eight straight wins on the Panther hardwoods.
Richfield didn't make a free throw all night but it didn't matter because the Tigers drilled eight 3-pointers led by four from junior Tel Clark (14 points, 4 steals, 2 assists). Carey's shooting was ice cold and the Panthers struggled to beat Richfield's defensive trap in full-court pressure.
Carey coach Dick Simpson said, "Richfield has got kids who are going to shoot the ball—and they shot the ball well against us. They jump well and rebound well and crash the boards hard. They're a good team and we just have to work harder."
To beat Richfield, "we have to shoot the ball well," Simpson said. "We didn't do it when given the opportunities in the first half. That's when frustration sets in. I felt we did better with the trap than we did down there (a 56-41 loss at Richfield Jan. 4). We stepped up in the second half and played better man-to-man."
Richfield surged to a 14-4 lead in the fast-paced first quarter. The Tigers overplayed and double-teamed on defense and forced a slew of early turnovers. Coach Simpson switched to a zone defense and it didn't work. Richfield shot over it successfully.
"I thought I'd see if they could prove it from the outside. Obviously they did," said Simpson about Richfield's perimeter marksmanship.
By halftime the Tigers had made six of their eight 3-pointers for the game. Their lead stretched to 16 points. They took away Carey's running game, forcing the Panthers into a half-court offense each time down.
In close games, the little things matter. Simpson said, "We just didn't get our hand on the loose balls. It seems every one went to them."
Carey sophomore Trevor Peck (5 steals) scored 7 of his 11 points in the third quarter as the Panthers starting going hard to the basket. Richfield made 11 of its 23 turnovers in the fourth quarter but Carey still couldn't cut the lead to single digits until Kade Peterson (6 points fourth) made the final bucket of the game.
As expected, it was a good match-up between senior counterparts D.J. Simpson (11 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals, 6 blocked shots) and Braiden Buckner of Richfield (15 points, 12 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 blocks).
Other contributors were Peterson (5 rebounds), Tyler Parke (5 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 assists), Dillon Simpson (3 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 assists), Blake Whitby (2 points, 2 boards, 4 steals, 2 assists) and Heith Adamson (2 points).
Besides Clark and Buckner, Richfield's other double-digit scorer was junior Brody Norman (10 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals). Others were Michael Lezamiz (5 points, 3 rebounds, 5 steals), Luke Wood (3 boards), Haisen Exon (2 points, 4 rebounds) and Matthew Lezamiz (2 points).
Carey hosted 3A Gooding (3-14) Thursday and the Panthers go to Shoshone (8-9, 5-5) Friday. The "Senior Night" home finale against 2A Valley of Hazelton (11-7) is Tuesday, Feb. 5 at Carey. Valley (56-52 in OT Dec. 19) and Richfield are the only teams to have beaten Carey.
"We've got three games left and our goal is to win all three—and we've got two at home," said coach Simpson after Tuesday's setback.
The Northside 1A Sub-District tournament opens Thursday, Feb. 7 at Shoshone High School gym with #2-seeded Carey playing the #7-seeded team, either Camas County or Bliss, in the 8 p.m. game.
A win in that game would most likely put Carey up against the #3-seeded Community School Cutthroats Friday, Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m. for the right to likely clash with top-seeded defending tournament champion Richfield in the championship game Monday, Feb. 11 at 7:30 p.m.
Richfield won last year's Northside tournament after placing second to Carey in the regular season. The two teams have been in the league title game for four straight years, Carey winning in 2006 and 2004, and Richfield in 2007 and 2005.
Both teams competed at the 2007 State 1A tournament, Richfield (20-7) going two-and-out and Carey (22-6) winning two of four state games.
Carey JV earns top seed
Fifth-year Carey junior varsity coach Danny Simpson has got the up-and-coming Panthers on a roll.
The Panther JV defeated Richfield 48-30 Tuesday night to clinch the top seed for the four-team Northside Conference junior varsity tournament starting Feb. 7 in Shoshone.
Carey (16-3, 12-0 league) got a game-high 15 points including three 3-pointers from sophomore Brett Adamson while 6-3 sophomore Wacey Barg added 12 points, Antonio Gamino 8, Blair Peck 5 and Brandon Dilworth 3 points.
The Panthers are on a mission after last February, when the Dietrich Blue Devils ended Carey's three-year reign as Northside tournament champions with a 54-45 victory at the Shoshone gym.
Carey's first-round tournament game is Thursday, Feb. 7 at 3:30 p.m. and the championship game is Saturday, Feb. 9 at 4:30 p.m. at Shoshone.