An Anacortes High School basketball team that’s fought its way into postseason play got some encouragement last week from three legendary Seahawks who won trophies there — seven decades ago.
Erling Oakland, Lee Wilson and Fred Olson, the only remaining starters from a 1937-38 squad that won a district championship and placed fourth at state, traveled to Anacortes from around Western Washington to watch the Burlington-Edison game and relive old times.
Athletic Director Rick Mergenthaler stole the mic before the Jan. 31 game to introduce the trio.
The men, now in their 90s, stood, with the help of canes and walkers, to acknowledge applause as Mergenthaler described their accomplishments.
The postseason high school basketball tournaments in those days pitted Anacortes — with a class size of about 80 -- against every school in the state, big or small. Everyone from Spokane to Vancouver to Blaine competed for one of the 16 spots on the state tournament brackets.
Oakland recalled the team’s success that year as a blend of skill and chance.
“We had a certain amount of talent on the team, and it came together,” Oakland said. “We just played ball, and it worked out beautifully.”
Anacortes had a strong team throughout the late 1930s, taking second place in the district in 1936 and third in 1937, losing only to Everett each year.
In the 1937 state tournament, the Seahawks placed seventh, led by Oakland and senior guard Jack Millard.
The following year, with Millard gone, Earling stepped up as the team’s captain and it all came together. That year the starting five beat Everett for the district championship, playing the entire game with no substitutions. Then it was on to the state tournament again.
The team was in good spirits, coming off the championship. The boys were up against favored returning state champion Walla Walla in the first round and came out on top, 55-52 — a high-scoring affair those days. Anacortes normally hovered around 40 points per game and still outscored most opponents by double digits.
The boys took a disappointing loss to Vancouver, 29-27, in the second round. Vancouver went on to thrash Everett 42-24 and win the state trophy.
Anacortes beat Snoqualmie 36-19, then Stadium of Tacoma 39-22 to place fourth in the state.
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