Can the Carey Panthers win the school's first-ever State 1A Division 2 boys' basketball championship this weekend in Caldwell and Nampa? They were close last March, losing the title game 57-56 to Nezperce.
By coincidence, that was the same final score as last Wednesday's come-from-behind Carey triumph over the Castleford Wolves (18-2) at Murtaugh that gave the Panthers their 15th state tournament berth in 19 years and earned their sixth conference tourney championship in the past nine winters.
At state, a lot depends on how coach Dick Simpson's Panthers (21-2) do in their first two games of the eight-team tourney starting Thursday, March 3 at Caldwell High with a 6:15 p.m. first-round game against the Meadows Valley Mountaineers from New Meadows.
Meadows Valley, the Boise-area runner-up, came on strong in the 3rd District tournament—beating Garden Valley 60-50, Council 65-45 and Tri-Valley 77-56 to qualify for state. Carey is tournament tested, 18-12 in its last eight state trips.
And Carey will be looking closely at the result of Thursday's opening game between defending champ Nezperce (14-8) and last year's State 1A Division 1 runner-up Castleford. The winner of that clash could advance into Saturday's 9:30 a.m. state championship game at The Idaho Center.
Carey, entering state with 14 consecutive wins, hopes to be back at The Idaho Center as well. The school's best-ever state tournament finishes on the Nampa hardwoods were second places in 2001 and 2010.
If Carey beats Meadows Valley Thursday, the Panthers play next in the state semi-final Friday at 3 p.m. against the winner of Thursday's 8 p.m. clash between Kootenai (6-11) and Murtaugh (13-9).
Castleford beat Murtaugh 53-38 in the conference second-place game last Thursday, then last year's state third-place finisher Murtaugh won Saturday's state play-in 46-36 over Sho-Ban at American Falls.