The 1993 Port Townsend High School boys’ basketball team is celebrating its 25-year reunion on Jan. 19 at the Port Townsend boys’ basketball game versus Klahowya with a game time of 7:15 p.m.
The 1993 Redskins were one of the most successful teams in Port Townsend history. The team finished with a 21-4 record, a Nisqually League championship, a West Central District 3 championship and a second-place finish in the WIAA State A Basketball Tournament.
The team was led by seniors Andy D’Agostino and Kevin Maier, juniors Dan Rough and Dekker Dirksen, and sophomores Rich D’Agostino, Luke Eaton and Emmanuel Abbott.
Those seven players received the majority of the playing time, but what made the ’93 Redskins exceptional was how all 12 varsity players embraced the team concept.
Every practice was spirited and competitive as each member accepted their role and gave of themselves for the good of the team. Calan Taylor, Joe Atkinson, Tanner Logue, Aaron Speck and Kevin Reid were reserves, but they worked incredibly hard to push those in front of them. The fact that every player was selfless and hard-working made the jobs of coaches Tim Black, John Stroeder and Mike Kelly enjoyable.
The coaches, myself included, were fortunate to have such a motivated group of young men to push, guide and mold into a true team, one in which the sum was greater than its parts.
There were several factors that played into the team’s high level of motivation. The previous season had ended with two difficult losses in the district tournament, when a win in either game would have earned PT a trip to the state A tournament.
The 1992 season was my first as Port Townsend’s head coach, and the ’92 team was one of my all-time favorites.
Led by the remarkable leadership of senior Tom Atkinson, the team overcame a 2-7 start to reel off 12 straight victories and a Nisqually League championship. That impressive run was ended by the two crushing district defeats. The pain of those losses fueled the 1993 team in every possible way.
Although Atkinson had graduated, the legacy of his leadership was felt throughout the ’93 campaign. When the ’93 team entered the Tacoma Dome for its first tourney game, there was Atkinson, sitting in the front row, inspiring the team with his presence and spirit.
There were many highlights during the ’93 season, but several games stood out. Metro League power Seattle Prep paid a visit to Bruce Blevins gymnasium, only to leave with a 1-point loss in an intense, well-played contest.
Seattle Christian featured a D-1 center and a D-2 point guard, and they defeated the Redskins in a regular season game on its home court. It was sweet revenge when the PT boys went on a 22-0 run to start the fourth quarter in the district championship game against that talented Seattle Christian squad.
That run sealed the district title and propelled the Redskins to the state A tourney. It also exorcised the demons from the devastating district losses from the year before.
All four games in the state tournament were magical, but the one that stood out was the Redskins’ victory over the Zillah Leopards. Zillah entered the tourney ranked no. 2 in the state with a 24-1 record. The team’s roster included six players who would earn all-state honors during their prep careers. They had won 15 straight games since a midseason coaching change, averaged about 77 points per game and were defeating their opponents by an average of 19 points.
PT was ranked fourth entering the tourney and was, at best, considered a dark horse, with Blaine, Ephrata and Zillah considered the real challengers for the title.
Motivation played a significant role in the Zillah game. After grinding out a tough first-round win over Meridian, the team discovered that the Tacoma News Tribune had published an article calling our team “an embarrassment” because of the “Redskin” team name. It was frustrating because there were other teams in the tourney with Native American mascots that were not mentioned in the article.
The players definitely felt singled out, and it was upsetting to be called an embarrassment. The truth was that the ’93 Port Townsend team was as far from an embarrassment as a team could be. The team exhibited class at every moment, and it would not be possible for a team to represent the community of Port Townsend in a more positive way.
The article inspired the team to show the Tacoma Dome crowd the quality of its character. In the locker room prior to the Zillah game, the players vowed that with every shot, every pass, every defensive play, every rebound, and every part of every player’s heart and soul, they would show who they really were.
When the PT boys took the floor, that is exactly what they did. Zillah was relentless with its pressure and could score in a multitude of ways. The Redskins took the Leopards’ best shot, survived their runs and played brilliant basketball. The team shot a sizzling 58 percent from the field, committed only 10 turnovers under the unrelenting pressure, contained Zillah’s potent running game and made eight straight pressure free throws down the stretch to secure the win. When the final buzzer sounded, the team’s spontaneous celebration came directly from the players’ hearts.
Port Townsend would defeat a quality Chelan team in the state semifinals before losing the state championship game to an exceptional Ephrata team. The Redskins struggled in the first half with uncharacteristic turnovers and poor shooting. They showed their heart in the second half, digging themselves out of a 12-point deficit to cut the lead to 3 points.
Late in the game, the Redskins had the momentum and the ball when a short jumper somehow wiggled out of the basket, Ephrata secured the rebound and came down the floor, and was awarded a controversial foul on a 3-point attempt. Video showed that there was no contact on the shot, but the Ephrata player nailed all three free throws, which effectively ended Port Townsend’s electric run.
The championship game loss hurt, but nothing could take away the positives of what the 1993 Port Townsend boys’ basketball team had accomplished.
Twenty-one wins, league champions, district champions and a second-place win in the state A tournament were accomplishments that defined a successful season. But what really defined this team was the way in which they represented the town of Port Townsend. The Redskins played an exquisite style of team basketball, with precision offense on one end and hard-nosed defense on the other. Their competitive spirit was unrivaled, yet they were humble and performed with class and sportsmanship at every moment.
The team had a shared vision and an amazing connection between the coaches and players. The character of the varsity players was exhibited by their unselfishness and their willingness to pay the price of success through hard work and discipline.
Without a doubt, the team’s on-court success was a by-product of the character of these 12 players.
Twenty-five years have passed like the blink of an eye, but this team’s legacy should serve as an example for how to do things right. Make no mistake, this was a talented group of young men. But what made them special was how they put aside their individual interests for the good of the team. Port Townsend remains incredibly proud of the 1993 Port Townsend Redskin boys’ basketball team.
Ryan Robertson lives in Chehalis now. He’s looking forward to the 25-year reunion Friday and expects seven players from 1993’s team as well as many parents to attend the game.