The Best of the Best #12: 1931
Whatcom County high schools have produced some amazing basketball seasons, but of those 100-plus years of state championship seasons and all the other great successes at state tournaments, which years were the best for the county as a whole?
Well, we at www.whatcomhoops.com came up with our top 12 greatest years of boys basketball. Why 12? Because a top 10 just wasn’t enough.
Before you start arguing with our picks, remember that any time you pick the “best” or “greatest” you have to be somewhat subjective. That is really true when looking at seasons that span more than a century of changes.
For example, from the first state tournament in 1923 until 1957, our county’s schools, both big and small, almost always competed in the one “big” state tournament that included all the big-city teams. It may be no coincidence that we had to wait until the new Class A tournament for smaller schools was formed in 1958 for our first state title.
Then there’s the fact that we have more schools now — 12 — than we had for most of the past 100 years, and they are competing in four different classifications (3A, 2A, 1A and 1B). So it’s easier for more teams in the 21st century to qualify and place at state than it was in the 20th century.
Finally, this is not meant to rank the greatest teams or even best tournaments, which would be completely subjective (and maybe we’ll do that sometime in the future).
Our goal was to rank the county’s best years by looking at all the county teams’ accomplishments, particularly their state finishes. The only accomplishment we required to be eligible for the top 10 was that at least one county team had to have won a state championship that year.
And now, let’s count down the top 12 years for Whatcom County boys basketball.
Yes, we know that we’ve already broken our own rule by including a year when no county team won a state championship. But despite that, this may have been the county’s most impressive season ever. Under coach Dan Beighle and led by all-star guard Walt Dickey, Mount Baker took fifth place in its first-ever state appearance; Whatcom (a forerunner of Bellingham High) grabbed sixth behind all-stater Walter Bliss; and Lynden placed seventh with forward Cliff Piercey earning all-state honors. What made this remarkable is that it was accomplished in the “big school” tournament against schools sometimes 10 times larger. That would be the same as half of our current schools placing in one mega-tournament that combined the 16 best 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A teams. With three teams earning state trophies, it was Whatcom County’s best year of basketball until another special season 43 years later.
Jim Carberry is a former Bellingham Herald sports editor and author of several books on Whatcom County prep basketball. Follow him on Twitter @whatcomhoops and visit the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page.