The thing is one team develops another team. So
1973 actually started way back in 1972. We had surprised many people in
‘72 when we finished in second place at the state championship. We
entered 1973 with essentially five returning starters. We lost Brant
Gibler to graduation but we still had Clif McKenzie and Dan Hegland at
the guard position, Richard Arena and Mike Walthall at the forwards and
we moved Rick Walker to center. All entered 1973 as experienced players.
To this group we added seniors John Hussey at guard
and Dave Fisher came on to back up Walker at center. We added juniors
Kevin Olson, Bryan Garinger and Rick Torseth as forwards and Mark
Eathorne and Ray Hackett at guard. These players had a very successful
junior varsity season in 1972 so our prospects look good for the 1973
The big difference in 1973 was that we would not be
sneaking up on anyone. But when you ask if I thought we would win the
state championship? No, but I thought we’d be in the finals or the
semifinals. I thought, we’re going to be there and the reason was that
these guys were consistent. They weren’t going to play a really bad game
and if they played a really bad game; they could win playing a really
bad game so we were lucky. Certainly the Lincoln game, the only game we
would lose, was not a real bad game; that was a great game.
But everybody was after us. The one thing is that
you watch somebody like Duke or North Carolina, every game they play is
a bloody mess. Well there wasn’t a team around; I don’t care if it was
Podunk or Sequim; that wasn’t after us. And then it’s a lot of fun to
win. This team met those challenges every time we played a game.
When you only lose one game, there are plenty of
wins but some of our wins in 1973 were special. We beat West twice. At
their place they came out in stall and forced us to play at a slower
pace and a different style than was natural for us. That was a good
experience because later in the season, Port Angeles stalled as well. We
had great success against Central Kitsap, met the tough challenge of
South Kitsap and won a big mid-season game against Timberline at their
As the season progressed, we turned into a “six
starter” team with the development of Kevin Olson. We could use him at
forward to spell either Walthall or Arena or he would come in to give
Hegland a breather and I’d move Walthall to guard. Fisher became Walker’s
understudy and I would say honestly that Fisher was the best jumper we
had. The rest of the reserves gain valuable experience practicing
against this group of starters every day and they also saw plenty of
playing time since we won many of our games by large margins. This game
experience would be very helpful the next year.
We were ranked one or two in the state for most of
the season so entering the tournament; we were both a favorite and a
target. We started with a big win against Foster, but then we played our
closest game of the year beating Juanita by two points. We won the
district tournament when we beat Curtis who was becoming our annual post
We returned to St. Martin’s College for the
regional tournament beating both Tumwater and Enumclaw in close games in
which we did not play up to our ability. But again we were a consistent
team and that helped us win these games. We had also developed a
confidence in ourselves and in our style of play. We were not big headed
but we believed we could win every game we played if we played our style
and played together.
Next up was the state championship where we faced
two teams we had played earlier in the season. In the semi-finals we had
a rematch against Juanita. In the week leading up to the game, it was
reported in the Seattle papers that the Juanita team believed they had
discovered how to beat East after playing us earlier. That discovery
turned out to be false as we played our most complete games of the
season and won 83 to 68 and it was not that close.
That win matched East against Timberline for the
state championship. We had played them earlier and won in their gym.
They were a very good team that blended height with skill. This game was
all a state championship game should be. It was well played and it was
close all the way to end. With game tied at 52 we had the ball with a
minute and half to play. We were shooting at the other end of the court
from our bench and with a loud, packed University of Puget Sound
Fieldhouse; it was difficult to communicate with the players at the
other end of the court.
But if there was ever a moment in the history of
East Knights basketball that modeled how we play, this was it. McKenzie
took control of the floor and signaled that we would play for the last
shot. At the same time this coach and the rest of the team yelled,
screamed and waved towels in an attempt to get their attention to call
As the clock ran down and Timberline stayed in
their zone defense, we moved the ball around the parameter with McKenzie
controlling the flow and Arena running the baseline. As anyone who’s
ever played for East knows, when the clock reaches 10 seconds, it’s time
to “go.” In this case, go was a pass to Kevin Olson who found an open
seam in Timberline’s zone that gave him a clean eighteen foot jumper.
His shot was true but just a touch long.
What happened next is captured it
pictures by Richard Ellis, a photographer for the Bremerton Sun. The
Ellis photographs show Richard Arena, who is boxed out by a taller
Timberline player, go up and over him and tip the ball back to himself.
Richard then goes straight back up with the shot while the previously
out rebounded Timberline player has both his hands in Richard’s face. No
worry. It’s Arena, a player we all came to know as the “one” who would
do the impossible. He banks the shot off the board and through; we win
54 to 52 and return home to Bremerton with the first state championship
since 1941. A great season.
Hall of Fame Story