The Best of the Best #1: 1974
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:
If you’re a fan of Whatcom County basketball and know any of its fabled history, then you are familiar with the Whatcom County League’s 1-2-3 finish in 1974. But you might still be surprised that 1974 — with only three trophies — is No.1 among all the great seasons. But think about this: the WCL only had six teams, which means that half the league’s teams not only earned trophies but didn’t lose a game at state to anyone besides a fellow WCL team. And because the league could only send three teams to state in those days, its 1-2-3 finish was the best possible result it could have, something no other year can say. Led by all-stater Bruce Bravard, Nooksack Valley’s first great state championship team finished 25-2, beating rival Mount Baker in the final. Behind Dale Zender, the Mounties earned their first trophy since the 1958 state championship. The biggest surprise was Blaine, which took third behind the great Tim Evans despite coming into the tournament with an 11-12 record. All in all, that makes 1974 the best of the best.
And there you have it — 12 special years that will be remembered by anyone who was fortunate enough to witness the great teams, players, coaches and fans that have made Whatcom County boys basketball the best in the state.
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.