Two small-school boys' basketball teams itching to reach the top rung of the State 1A Division 2 tournament ladder clashed for the first time Tuesday in what will be their only regular-season meeting.
Castleford was at home and Carey the visitor in a match-up of last year's State 1A Division 1 basketball runner-up—Castleford (23-2)—and last year's State 1A Division 2 runner-up—Carey (23-3). Neither team likes to lose. This is Castleford's first year in Division 2.
The back-and-forth game went down to the wire, but Castleford (17-for-23) did a little better at the free throw line and walked away with a 53-50 victory over Carey (9-for-10 line). The Panthers made 26 turnovers, 11 more than average.
It was satisfying revenge for the Castleford boys, knocked off 20-6 by eventual state eight-man football champ Carey in the state semi-final game Nov. 11 at Pocatello's Holt Arena.
Carey coach Dick Simpson (200-44), fresh off his 200th win as the Panther head coach Saturday at Challis, said, "We shot well from the free-throw line but just didn't get there enough. And we turned the ball over way too many times.
"Castleford played good defense on us and we played good defense on them. If we play them 10 times, they'd probably win five and we'd probably win five. It was a tough game, back-and-forth, even, a good test. But mental errors hurt us."
Leading Carey scorer Blair Peck (15 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals in 30 minutes) was the Panther leader, but his team shot 32% overall from the field, down from its 43% average. Carey's 3-point shooting (5-for-16) was better than usual.
Other Carey contributors included Chance Chavez (8 points), Baley Barg (9 points, 4 boards, 2 blocks, 4 steals), Dillon Cenarrusa (7 points, 6 rebounds) and Joey Laidlaw (6 points). Castleford 6-4 senior Tyler Hansen (19 points) and 6-3 senior Kale Weekes (13) topped the Wolves on Tuesday.
The Carey player who logs the most minutes on the team, senior wing Caleb Cenarrusa, played only two minutes at Castleford due to a sprained ankle. Simpson missed Cenarrusa's defensive assets and penetrating abilities on offense.
Because the nine-team 4th District 1A Division 2 league is split into North and South divisions this winter, Castleford and Carey probably won't meet again until the league tournament in Murtaugh Feb. 14-24.
"If we have to lose to Castleford, it's better we do it now since we won't see them again until the tournament," said Simpson.
Carey hosts Oakley (1-3) today, Friday, Dec. 10. Oakley opened with a 51-47 loss at Hagerman last Thursday and beat Rockland 52-42 at home Saturday. On Wednesday night, Valley whipped Oakley 56-35.
Simpson said, "Oakley has a lot of height but they may not have as good ball handlers as they've had in the past. We'll put a lot of pressure on them."