Many Northside Conference boys' basketball observers expect the Carey Panthers and Castleford Wolves to battle it out for the league tournament championship and state tournament berths come February.
Castleford (4-0) is averaging 66.0 points per game and Carey (6-1, 57.4 ppg) is flooding the court with its depth and piling up the wins in the early going.
There are legitimate challengers to supremacy in the nine-team Northside, chiefly Murtaugh's Red Devils and Dietrich's Blue Devils. And Murtaugh will be hosting the league tournament this year.
For coach Dick Simpson's Carey Panthers, Tuesday's showdown at Murtaugh was the linchpin to keep the rest of the team's season objectives in place. Carey did quite well, walloping Murtaugh 67-45 with a 23-11 fourth-quarter outburst.
Humberto Pacheco (17 points) topped Murtaugh (4-2).
Carey shot 43% from the field, four points better than its season average, and 5-for-18 from 3-point range. Like they've been doing all season, the Panthers (20 steals) forced an opponent into mistakes, and Murtaugh had 26 turnovers.
Simpson assigned 10 or more minutes on the court to eight players—and the top scoring honors came from two unlikely teammates. They were junior Baley Barg (16 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 2-for-3 3 pointers, 4-for-6 charities) and junior Jacy Baird (14 points, 5 assists, 7-for-10 shooting).
Those were season-best totals for both players. Leading scorer Blair Peck (14.3 ppg) cooled off in his shooting. But Peck (9 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals) still pitched in.
Other Panther contributors were Shane Bingham (8 points, 3 assists, 4 steals), Joey Laidlaw (6 points, 4 boards), Caleb Cenarrusa (7 points, 3 rebounds, 6 steals), Chance Chavez (4 points, 3 steals) and Jack Cenarrusa (3 points). Dillon Cenarrusa didn't score, but hauled down a team-high nine rebounds with two assists.
The Panthers host the Community School (1-3) today, Friday, Dec. 17 for their first North Division league game. On Saturday at Arco, Carey tries to slow down Butte County (3-1), whose Zac Hansen tallied 26 points in Saturday's 32-point win at Mackay. Butte lost only at Salmon 73-54 Dec. 1.
First win for TCS boys
First-year Community School coach Erik Olson savored his first win, and so did his young team, on Tuesday night when the Cutthroats rallied past Magic Valley Christian 44-33 at Jerome.
The Cutthroats came on strong in the second half with a 32-19 advantage, including a 12-2 surge in the final eight minutes. Freshman guard Taylor Adler had the hot hand with 26 points for the Cutthroats (1-3).
Adler has endured a trial-by-fire season against some veteran opponents, but his maturation is beginning to pay dividends for the Cutthroats. While 13 of his points came from free-throws (13-of-14), his 26-point explosion against MVCA was all the more convincing because he paired that with a huge drop in turnovers.
"We challenged the team to keep turnovers under 15 for the game, and they did it," said assistant coach Willy Felton.
The key moment came early in the fourth quarter with the Cutthroats holding a slender four-point lead. With good perimeter ball movement, Adler found Eli Albarran, who drained a clutch 3-pointer.
Cutthroat contributors were Henry Rickbeil (6 points, 12 rebounds), Albarran (4 points), Coltin Sholtis (4 points) and Doug Dufur (4). Magic Valley Christian dropped to 0-4.