Going to the state high school basketball tournament has become something of a birthright for the sons and daughters of Dick and Deenie Simpson of Carey. Still, even though your father is the coach, you still have to earn it.
Dillon Simpson, a 6-0 Carey High School junior, is the last in the line of Simpson children, having inherited all the state tournament tales of brothers D.J., Devin, Destry, Danny and David. The Simpson children have played big roles in Carey's remarkable 342-130 record on the basketball court since 1991.
But that prosperity was in jeopardy Saturday night when #2-seeded Carey played #4-seeded Murtaugh in the third-place game of the Northside 1A Division 2 tournament at Carey's gym. At stake was a berth in the eight-team State 1A Division 2 tournament. The loser would see its season end.
Murtaugh erased an early 12-point Carey lead with a blistering 27-9 run and built a 33-27 lead midway through the third period. And Dillon Simpson, despite being Carey's season leader in assists, steals and blocked shots and third in rebounding, still wasn't getting or making his shots on offense.
That changed in a hurry after a Carey time out.
Simpson (8-for-27 3-pointers on the season) drilled a 3-pointer, blocked a shot, hit another 3-pointer and made two consecutive pull-up jumpers giving Carey a 40-35 lead. Then, six different Panthers scored in a 21-6 fourth-quarter blowout as Carey wore down Murtaugh.
The final score was 64-41, with four Carey players scoring in double figures for the first time all season and the Panthers out-rebounding Murtaugh 44-31. Carey (19-5) qualified for its 13th state tournament in the last 17 years and Murtaugh (13-9) went home after going to state last March.
Coach Dick Simpson said, "I think we wore them down a little. This was the first time in six years that we haven't been in the championship game of our tournament and it was up to us to play like we should have been in the championship. But we were very tentative in the second quarter."
Murtaugh, like Carey playing its third game in three nights, wasn't shooting well from the field, 6-for-32 in the first half and 14-for-64 for the game, but the Red Devils out-rebounded Carey in the second period and got back into it with 9-for-12 charity shooting.
The key for Carey was getting something out of Simpson, who was shooting only 4-of-18 from the field in the last four Panther games. Coach Simpson said, "Dillon scored 17 and 11 points when we played Dietrich in the season, then he took only three shots when we lost to Dietrich (47-45) in the tournament Thursday. We needed him to step up, and he did."
Simpson added, "Dillon got us sparked in the third and got our adrenalin going. Heith (Adamson) was big on the boards and I felt our defense picked it up in the second half."
Leading Carey were Heith Adamson (15 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 assists), Simpson (14 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 5 assists, 2 blocks), Trevor Peck (12 points, 5 boards, 3 assists), Brett Adamson (11 points, 2 steals, 5 assists), Wacey Barg (8 points, 13 rebounds) and Jacy Baird (2 points, 8 boards, 2 blocks).
Senior Jared Cenarrusa (2 points, 3 boards) chipped in.
Murtaugh's smooth-shooting Manuel Pacheco (16 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals) topped the Red Devils. Humberto Pacheco (10 points, 6 rebounds), Trey Perkins (8 points) and Zach Cummins (6 points, 4 boards) were other Murtaugh factors.
In Saturday's championship game, Richfield (19-3) captured its third Northside title in five years 53-44 over Dietrich (16-7). Junior varsity winner was #2-seeded Dietrich in a 45-37 upset over top-seeded Carey (17-2).
Other Carey tourney games
Free throw shooting hurt Carey badly during last week's seven-team conference tournament. Carey, 52% from the line for the season, shot 42% in its home tournament including a lowly 10-for-24 (and 24% from the field) in its 47-45 loss to #3-seeded Dietrich Thursday.
Coach Simpson said, "We just haven't shot the ball as good as we can. That hurt us. We've got to get some rhythm."
In the Dietrich game, there were 53 turnovers, 30 by the Blue Devils, but Carey still couldn't get over the hump despite 15 points and 10 rebounds by Heith Adamson. Brett Adamson (12 points, 4 steals, 4 assists) also had a solid game. Scott Perron made the winning basket for Dietrich while Jaren Stoddard added 16 points.
Carey got scoring from nine players in staying alive Friday night 57-38 over #5-seeded Bliss (5-14). Scorers were Brett Adamson 13 points, Trevor Peck 9 and 4 assists, Wacey Barg 9 points and 10 boards, Heith Adamson 7 points, Simpson 6, Baird 6, Brad Peck 4, Cenarrusa 2 and Tyler Chavez 1.
State tournament outlook
Similar to what happened to the Carey girls in the recent 1A Division 2 tourney, Carey's boys might have lucked out with a better draw than second-place Dietrich in opening-round games of the state tournament Thursday, March 5 at Caldwell High School.
But coach Simpson cautioned, "On the first day at state, anything can happen."
Carey, trying to clinch its fourth straight 20-win season, opens against northern Idaho champ Nezperce (13-10) Thursday at 8 p.m. Nezperce's last state appearance was in 2005, when the Indians earned the fourth-place win over Notus.
The Panthers lost to Nezperce 53-52 in the State 1A tournament semi-final game in 2003, then Castleford beat Nezperce 64-59 for the championship. That third-place finish for Carey (22-3), and its third in 1994 and second in 2001, are its best state tournament finishes.
Meanwhile, #3-ranked Dietrich (16-7) debuts against Idahosports.com top-ranked Garden Valley (19-3) Thursday at 6:15 p.m. Other first-round games: Mackay (15-6) against Summit Academy of Cottonwood (17-10) Thursday at 1:15 p.m. and #2-ranked Richfield (19-3) against Clark County of Dubois (10-10) at 3 p.m.
If Carey wins Thursday, the Panthers meet the Dietrich-Garden Valley winner Friday at 3 p.m. If Carey loses, they play at 8 p.m. Friday. Championship game is Saturday, March 7 at 9:30 a.m. at The Idaho Center in Nampa. Consolation and third-place games are 9:15 a.m. and 11 a.m. Saturday at Caldwell High School.
The only Division 2 teams returning from last year's 16-team State 1A meet won by Troy are Carey, Garden Valley, Richfield and Clark County.