Elma’s 1964 basketball title team recalled
I read with interest Karen Barkstrom’s World Gone By column on Saturday, chronicling Elma’s state 1964 state Class A basketball championship. It’s hard to believe it has been 50 years since that event, because I remember it like it was like yesterday.
I was 14 years old and a freshman at Elma. The season started in December of 1963, only 10 days or so after John F. Kennedy was assassinated and the mood overall was glum.
We had our spirits raised somewhat as Elma started quickly with a veteran if short squad. An early loss at home against a powerhouse St. Martin’s Prep team steeled their resolve and Elma ran off a few impressive wins before losing at Montesano, 44-43, on a buzzer-beater by Jim Johansen from Aldo Anderson’s stellar Bulldog team, also tourney veterans.
After that, Elma ran the table through the rest of the league, including a come-from-behind win at St. Martin’s (led by 32 from Rick Slettedahl), a home rematch against Monte and two wins over always-tough Raymond.
One sports writer opined that Elma’s starting lineup — Hatley, Hartley, Huttula, Slettedahl and Murphy — sounded like a law firm. Indeed, Dave Hatley, Bruce Hartley, Carl Huttula, Rick Slettedahl and Pat Murphy laid down John Donahue’s law all the way to Elma’s first state championship, gaining fans in every venue they played in for their hustle, desire and never-say-die attitude that more than made up for their lack of size.
Huttula, who gave his life in Vietnam, jumped center at just 5-foot-10. Murphy was the tallest at 6-1. Hatley was a stalwart on the boards at just 6 feet. Bruce Hartley, also 6 feet, was a sharpshooting guard.
But it was the 5-9 Slettedahl (who later started at the University of Washington) who stole the show through seven district and state games. Amazingly agile and quick, Rick was also an outstanding ball-handler and passer. As the point guard, he orchestrated Coach Donahue’s team-oriented offense that got everyone into the act.
Slettedahl was the leading scorer at about 17 a game, but three others were in double figures and Hatley was only a bit behind.
Slettedahl’s initial failing, if that could be said, was that he was sometimes too unselfish with the ball. As Elma got deeper into district play, Coach Donahue urged him to drive more against man defenses.
Against St. Martin’s in the district championship game, Elma trailed by nine going into the final quarter against the bigger and more physical Rangers. Slettedahl took over the game, scoring 15 in the quarter and 38 for the game.
At the University of Puget Sound in the state tournament, Rick scored 109 points in four games, wowing the overflow crowds with his shooting and playmaking.
I am sure that the final game against Medical Lake, a 75-66 victory, found the City of Elma virtually deserted. It certainly put Elma on the map. Anyway, a great memory that 50 years can’t diminish.