High school athletic coaches relish the prospect of their teams playing their best game in the final game of the season.
That's what the Carey School girls' varsity basketball team did Saturday in the third-place game of the State 1A Division 2 tournament at Nampa High School gym.
Very aggressive from the outset, Carey (15-10) dominated the rebounding with 50 boards and rolled to a 59-39 victory over Greenleaf Friends Academy behind 17 points by Jessica Parke and a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double by another junior, Amy Ellsworth.
"We made a statement by the way we won our last game," said third-year Carey coach Lane Durtschi. "And the way it finished, with Richfield first, Dietrich second and Carey third, shows our conference plays really good basketball."
In its fifth state tournament visit, and second straight under Durtschi, Carey earned its best-ever finish with third place. The Panther girls' program also accepted the 1A Division Sportsmanship trophy presented by the Idaho High School Activities Association.
"Sportsmanship comes from our girls, fans and cheerleaders," said Durtschi. "My philosophy is basketball is a team game. That's what wins. I'm proud of the season we had."
Durtschi was especially proud of the way Carey bounced back Saturday after the disappointment of losing to Northside rival Dietrich 43-39 in Friday's semi-final. "I'm glad the girls showed up to play. We went inside all game, broke the press well, out-rebounded them by a lot and shot pretty well (67%) from the free throw line."
The Panther seniors will be missed next year, the coach said, but they did very well against Greenleaf (20-6) in their finale. Senior leaders were Kelsey Green (10 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists), Kayla Bailey (6 points, 9 boards, 2 blocks) and Chelsey Hunt (8 points).
Carey shot 16-for-24 from the free throw line, much better than its 50% season average from the line. The Panthers also forced or took advantage of 25 Greenleaf turnovers, as senior Shelby Hansen (3 points) came up with four big steals.
"And it was a pretty good Greenleaf team, that beat Mackay (54-38) in the first state tournament game on Thursday," said Durtschi.
Saturday's championship game at Nampa's Idaho Center was all Richfield. The Northside Conference champion Tigers finished a 25-0 season with a 59-37 victory over the Dietrich Blue Devils (20-7).
Richfield junior Teenie Kent (19.3 ppg at state) scored 23 points for coach Steve Kent's Tigers in the first-ever State 1A Division 2 title contest. Richfield also won the 16-team State 1A tournament in 2007. The Tigers went to the hole all tournament, outscoring foes 32-11 and out-shooting them 54-23 at the free throw line.
The Tigers, winning their three games by 18, 41 and 22 points, also beat North Gem of Bancroft 51-33 and Greenleaf Friends Academy 61-20.
Dietrich, led by its outstanding senior Jesse Dill, also had a great tournament. Dill (20.7 ppg at state) made two free throws with no time on the clock lifting Dietrich past consolation winner Garden Valley 57-56 Thursday in the toughest game of the three-day tournament. Dill added eight rebounds.
The outcome sent Dietrich against Carey in Friday's semi-final contest. And the Blue Devils captured their fourth win in five meetings with Carey by a close score of 43-39. "We had a hard time with Jesse all season," said coach Durtschi.
Dill scored 21 points against Carey Friday and added 15 points with 12 boards and two assists in the championship game against Richfield. Dietrich out-pointed Carey 15-6 at the free throw line, which turned out to be a big factor.
Carey contributors against Dietrich were Kelsey Green (11 points), Parke (9 points, 3 assists), Ellsworth (7 points, 8 rebounds), Bailey (7 points), Hunt (4 points) and Hansen (1).
Fighting off a sluggish start, Carey also beat Summit Academy of Cottonwood 44-39 in Thursday's state debut. Top efforts were Parke (14 points, 5 steals, 2 assists) and Ellsworth (11 points, 12 boards). The Panthers outscored Summit 13-8 at the stripe for the final margin.
Leading scorer Jessica Parke (11.3 ppg), a junior, averaged 13.3 ppg at state and improved her career point total to 679, placing her fifth on the all-time Carey list and within long-shot striking distance of Kathy Simpson's all-time high 1,047.
Other top Carey career scorers are Kami Peck with 793 points, Lacie Peterson 771 and Kitty Simpson 689.
Final Carey season statistics: Record 15-10 (7-3 home, 8-7 away, 8-4 league). Offense: 1046 points (45.5 ppg). Defense: 838 (36.4 ppg).
Individual scoring: Jessica Parke 259 points (11.3 ppg, 13.3 ppg at state, 679 points career); Amy Ellsworth 175 (7.6 ppg, 10.0 ppg at state, 389 points career); Kelsey Green 171 (7.4, 453 career); Kayla Bailey 115 (5.0, 274 career); Shelby Hansen 105 (4.6, 224 career); Chelsey Hunt 90 (3.9); Taylor Whitby 44 (6.3); Kelsey Reynolds 41; Jenni Murphy 18; Micaela Adamson 14; Darby Northcott 5; Shurressa Rodriquez 2; Erika Zarate 2; Candace Hennefer 2; and Nicky Gomez 2. Free throws: 163-327, 50%, opposing teams 227-415, 55%. 3-pointers (50): Green 26, Hunt 12, Parke 8, Hansen 2, Ellsworth 1, Whitby 1.
Other state divisions
1A Division 1: Lapwai (22-3) beat Clearwater Valley (18-7) by a score of 55-44. It was Lapwai's fourth state championship and first state girls' title since winning the 2A crown in 2002.
Challis defeated Raft River of Malta 57-43 for third place.
State 2A: West Jefferson of Terreton (18-8) took its first state title since 1999 with a 40-25 decision over Valley of Hazelton (21-4).
State 3A: Sugar-Salem of Sugar City (26-0) earned its second state championship in three years by a 63-40 score over Wendell (20-8).
State 4A: Bonneville of Idaho Falls (24-2) was a 43-36 winner over defending champion Middleton (19-7) for its first state championship since 2005. Jerome (22-5) settled for third place after a narrow 43-42 semi-final loss to Middleton. Jerome beat Lakeland of Rathdrum 69-52 for third place.
State 5A: Coeur d'Alene (25-0) was the third of three unbeaten state champions last weekend, taking care of Centennial (25-1) by a 54-50 overtime score in a very exciting final game of the season. It was Coeur d'Alene's second consecutive State 5A title and seventh girls' crown overall.