It was late winter of 1966 and the sign read: “Go Rough Riders.“
The sign was outside the Sequim Shop Rite and the Port Angeles Roughrider basketball team cheered when they passed the store on the way to Seattle.
Yes, even Sequim basketball fans were caught up in the drama when the ’Riders were one
of four teams headed for the Seattle Center Coliseum and the 42nd State AA Basketball Championships.
Port Angeles High will salute and honor that 1966 team, which finished second in the state, the highest finish of any ’Rider boys basketball team, during halftime next week when Sequim visits the ’Riders to end the regular season. It will be like a playoff game for the Wolves and ’Riders — second place in the final Olympic League standings and a home playoff game in the subdistricts await the team that finishes behind Kingston.
The 1965-1966 team started the season under veteran coach Bob Klock and trusty assistant Jack McKay by reeling off 10 straight victories, averaging 58 points a game.
They lost their only league game to East Bremerton on the Knight court in early January, 52-48 in a typical ’Rider vs. Knight contest. Klock matched wits with longtime Knight mentor Les Eathorne in a packed East High gym that was filled before the JV game began.
The Olympic League had two divisions: The AA included P.A., East, South Kitsap, Shelton, Central K and North K, while the A division had Bainbridge, Sequim, P.T., Vashon, North Mason and Forks.
The ’Riders had been ranked as high as second in the A.P. poll and rattled off eight more wins to tie East for the league title at 18-1. East took the top seed to the district tourney by virtue of a coin toss.
Slick guard Mike Clayton led the offense. The smooth-shooting lefty averaged 15 points a game. Inside was 6-foot 5-inch Leroy Sinnes, who averaged about 13. In Klock’s half-court offense, Sinnes had to be the guy to take the first shot or pass the ball back out to a wing. That was in the days before the three-point shot, when basketball shorts didn’t hang down below the knees.
Greg Kushman was Clayton’s running mate and a deadly shooter as well as a deft defender and ball handler.
Up front Klock had the likes of 6-foot 4-inch Clarence Coleman, 6-foot 2-inch Wiley Duckett, 6-foot 1-inch Bob Ruddell and a 6-foot 3-inch sophomore named Bernie Fryer.
Klock’s deep bench included Dan Fullerton, Mike Ruddell, Mike Sorensen and Henry Eberhard.
That group had unity. They were unselfish and didn’t care who scored the most or who got the most headlines or starts but were dedicated to the sole purpose of winning as a team — and that they did.
The run to the state tournament was classic high school basketball, as the ’Riders topped North Thurston (71-48), Peninsula (71-58) and East Bremerton (48-47) in succession to reach regionals.
At regionals, held at the University of Puget Sound Fieldhouse, P.A. (ranked No. 3) edged Columbia River (ranked No. 2) by a 70-66 count. The ’Riders went on to demolish Lincoln 72-52 to earn the state berth.
The ’Riders tipped Burlington-Edison 68-55 in the semi-finals before a key injury to Clayton doomed the ’Riders in the finals. Renton topped Port Angeles, 62-46.
It was a great run and now team manager Bruce Skinner, has rounded up all the players from that team except Eberhard.
Skinner has a dinner planned for Feb. 7 and then the team will be honored during halftime of the Tuesday game. Maybe they can motivate the current ’Rider squad and help them achieve their dream of a state tournament.
Lurking as spoiler? Coach Greg Glasser’s Wolves. He will probably remind his team that a bunch of guys from P.A. spoiled Sequim’s centennial party a few weeks ago.
Reach Scooter Chapman at email@example.com.