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Return to the Hardwood: Carey, Wasps Reunite on the Court

  • Joel Carey, the new head coach of Woodstock boys basketball, encourages his team to keep up their energy and pressure despite their 11 point lead over Oxbow at half time in Bradford, Vt., Saturday, December 10, 2016. Carey is a former Woodstock basketball and football player and is now the director of the Woodstock recreation department. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lincoln Ilsley, of Oxbow, left, and Griffin Van Neil, of Woodstock, right, dive for a loose ball during their game at Oxbow High School in Bradford, Vt., Saturday, December 10, 2016. Woodstock won 59 - 51. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Woodstock Head Coach Joel Carey, right, directs his team during a tense moment on offense in the second half of their game with Oxbow in Bradford, Vt., Saturday, December 10, 2016. Woodstock won 59 - 51. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Bill Wood, of Woodstock, splits Oxbow's Tegan McKnelly, left, and Matthew Towle, right, on an offensive drive at Oxbow High School in Bradford, Vt., Saturday, December 10, 2016. Woodstock won 59 - 51. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Correspondent
Saturday, December 10, 2016

Bradford, Vt. — Any Woodstock High sports fan of the early 1990s would be hard-pressed to forget the name Joel Carey.

A 1994 graduate, Carey scored more than 1,400 points as a basketball player for the Wasps. He also represented both his school and state as a football player in the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl.

Carey has returned to his alma mater this season in a new role, to coach Woodstock’s boys basketball team, which opened its season with a 59-51 victory over Oxbow on Saturday at Mona Garone Gym. Moments after earning his first varsity win as a coach before receiving a slew of congratulations from family and friends, the Woodstock native reflected on his new role and how it differs from suiting up in uniform.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking at times,” Carey said. “You want to be out there playing yourself. You don’t have much control over it. That’s about the point where I’m a little nervous. I wish I had more control, but other than that, the kids stepped it up and did what they were supposed to do.”

The guests used a balanced offensive attack and a significant size advantage to withstand the streaky-shooting Olympians, who buried eight 3-pointers in the season opener for both teams.

Brendan Schwartz (14 points, six rebounds) and Caleb Webb (12 points, eight rebounds) were dominant for the Wasps inside the paint.

“We didn’t have size on our side,” said Oxbow’s Matthew Towle, who led his team with 14 points. “Boxing out becomes a big issue. We know we’re a smaller team and we’re going to face bigger people. We practice a lot on boxing out, which we obviously need to work on because they had a lot of boards tonight.”

The Wasps won the rebounding battle, 38-25.

Woodstock, which won the VPA Division II state tournament in 2015 and claimed runner-up honors last season, was led in the backcourt by Griffin Van Neil. He scored 11 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists while helping drive his team’s multi-pronged attack.

Saturday’s game teetered on the brink of a runaway during the second quarter when the guests pushed their advantage to 16 points. Oxbow closed the quarter in strong fashion, however, with a three-point play by Kyle Sweet followed by a Kyle Pittman steal out of the press, which led to a buzzer-beating layup by Towle. The quick offensive flurry kept the game within reach for the Olympians, who trailed 34-23 at intermission.

Steve Carson, Oxbow’s third-year coach, was encouraged by his team’s effort.

“Sometimes our boys just roll over when they get down 16,” Carson said. “But I was really proud of them for fighting.”

The Olympians remained competitive in the second half, whittling Woodstock’s lead down to 57-51 during the final minute. Two late-game free throws by Van Neil secured the victory for the Wasps.

Carey has taken the Woodstock coaching reins for Jeff Thomas, who vacated the Wasps’ bench after five years at the helm.

“The job opened up, and I wasn’t sure I’d get another opportunity,” said Carey, who played four years of football at Plymouth State University (formerly known as Plymouth State College). “With three kids, it made it kind of tough. My wife kind of pushed me to do the job, so I went for it and it seems like it worked out pretty well.”

Carey, who works as the assistant director and sports coordinator at the Woodstock Recreation Center, has been coaching his son’s youth basketball teams for the last six years. Prior to that, he coached junior varsity ball at South Royalton with Thomas.

“(Thomas) and I have been close over the years, and we’ve done a lot of basketball stuff together,” Carey said.

The Wasps’ new coach arrives with plenty of street cred, according to Schwartz.

“He was one of the greats at our school,” Schwartz said. “He knows what he’s talking about, and he knows how to get better.”

Oxbow’s Carson coaches at his alma mater as well.

“I grew up in the community,” said Carson, a 1989 Oxbow graduate. “I was born the year the school was built. It means a lot to give back.”