The Best of the Best #4: 1996
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 the quality of the top team determined the quality of the top season, then there’s no doubt 1996 would be No.1, because there is no arguing which is the best-ever Whatcom County boys basketball squad. That honor goes to Sehome of ’96, which captured the Class AAA (now 4A) state title, finished with a record of 30-0 and is still considered one of if not the best team in Washington state history. The Mariners were led by seniors Ryan Kettman and Jared Stevenson, and with an amazing 39-point victory in the championship game finished as the No.5 team in the nation. This also was the first time the county had six teams qualify for state. In the Class AA (now 3A) tournament, Ryan Skogstad led Ferndale to only its third-ever state appearance and a school-best fourth-place finish, Lynden finished sixth behind sophomore Treven VanderPloeg, and Bellingham qualified but did not place. In the Class A tournament, Jess Pauley led Lynden Christian to a fifth-place finish, and Meridian reached state but not place.
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.