Down two points to Lynden High School in the 1996 Class 2A state semifinal boys basketball game with about six seconds left on the clock, a Lynden player missed the back end of a 1-and-1 free throw opportunity.
So Gig Harbor High School senior guard Sam Scholl took the ball all the way down the court and threw up an eight-foot floater.
He drained it.
The Tides went on to win the game in overtime, 64-54, securing a spot in the championship game. Gig Harbor went on to win the championship over West Valley of Yakima, 60-45, delivering the school’s first and only boys basketball state title.
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60-45 Gig Harbor’s winning score against West Valley in the 1996 Class 2A state championship game
“We were fortunate — we had a lot of special teams,” said Lyle McIntosh, who was Gig Harbor’s head coach from 1984 to 2009. “It was senior-dominated team. They stuck together and they all contributed. … We were successful because everyone played together. It was just a tight knit group. The moms of that group of seniors still meet once a month for breakfast and coffee, to this day.”
There were nine seniors on the team who had all played together since sixth grade. The seniors were Scholl, who was named the state tournament’s most valuable player, guard Jon Grobins, forward Mike Schmidt, forward Brian Kiehl, center Justin Bennett, guard Aaron Amidon, and forwards Ryan Johnson, John Scott and guard Max Hangartner. Other key contributors were juniors Matt Gardner and Sam Baurichter and sophomore guard Adam Harris.
“It was a special experience, just with the buildup and all the work we put in to get there,” Scholl said. “We played together for six, seven years. We watched the teams ahead of us go to the state tournament and we wanted to win it all.”
At the time, 2A was the second-largest classification. Class 3A was the largest.
Scholl’s father, Dennis, was happy to see the team finally get over the hump that season.
“Gig Harbor had a long streak of going to state, winning the first game and losing the next two,” he said. “That was kind of their reputation.”
50%Gig Harbor’s field goal percentage in the state title game
Not in ’96, though. Gig Harbor, which finished the season with only two losses, jumped out to a 15-2 lead in the first quarter of the championship game against West Valley. The Tides went 9-for-16 from 3-point range and shot 50 percent from the field. West Valley didn’t stand a chance.
“I think we all couldn’t really believe it,” said Scholl’s mother, Terri. “The boys had been telling us for so long, ‘We’re going to win state.’”
There were no playing time disputes or arguments. There were no superstars who took the majority of the shots. Just a talented, hard-working team that had its sight set on the ultimate prize. Scholl, who went on to play at the University of San Diego after high school, and is currently an assistant coach at the school, said he has yet to be a part of another team — as a player or coach — that has had the same level of camaraderie.
“I’m in year 17 of Division-I coaching, and I’ve yet to be part of a team that was as close, cohesive, would sacrifice for each other and didn’t care who got what,” he said. “It was just a total team effort.”
The Gig Harbor community got behind the team during its incredible run through the state tournament.
Walking out for those games in the Tacoma Dome, one whole side was just all blue. I’m getting goosebumps just talking about it. Everybody was a part of it.
Lyle McIntosh, longtime Gig Harbor boys basketball coach
“Everyone rallied around the group,” McIntosh said. “Walking out for those games in the Tacoma Dome, one whole side was just all blue. I’m getting goosebumps just talking about it. Everybody was a part of it.”
After the championship-game victory, the team retreated back to the Gig Harbor High School gym for pizza and a late-night celebration.
“The school was just packed with people having a great time,” McIntosh said.
The group has managed to stay in touch, for the most part, but now the team will be getting together for a more formal celebration. Players and their families are hosting a 20th anniversary celebration at the Gig Harbor High School gym from 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 13. The celebration is open to the public, and will include a slideshow with photos and videos and some speeches by those in attendance. Coffee and light snacks will be provided.