Archive for the ‘Boys Basketball’ Category

   Mike Criscuola poured in 979 points on the hardwood between 1956-1960, fifth most in school history. (Jack Sell photo)

The past has many tales to tell.

There are many reasons to push for record boards for every sport at Coupeville High School, and remembering and honoring those who have come before us is a primary one.

By digging into the past and putting in hours buried in newspaper archives, the back room of school libraries and the occasional attic or basement, we can, and will, better preserve our town’s sports legacy.

My current project, trying to sift through 100 years of CHS boys basketball and 44 years of Wolf girls hoops, with that history largely scattered to the wind in a billion little pieces, has been equal parts frustrating and enlightening.

Barring the sudden creation of a time machine, reality is this — we can’t put together a complete, 100% accurate history of our town’s high school basketball teams.

It’s just not possible. Too many records have been lost, or never kept in the first place.

But balancing out that doom and gloom is that it is possible to unearth a lot that was once thought lost. To swing the spotlight back to those who should have been remembered earlier.

One such person is Mike Criscuola, or, as I have taken to calling him in recent days, The Lost Legend of the ’50s.

As I pull together a pretty-close-to-comprehensive list of the top 10 scorers in CHS hoops history, many of the names are ones I expected to find.

Jeff Stone, Randy Keefe, Brad Sherman.

Before checking a single old stat sheet, newspaper story or yearbook, I would have put money on that trio, so, finding they sit #1, #3 and #8 all-time, respectively, is hardly a surprise.

But Criscuola was not a name I had heard before, and, without this latest round of research, he would have been lost in the annuals of time to me.

Which would have been a shame, since he scored the fifth-most points of any Wolf boys basketball player.

He was a man among boys, literally towering over most of his teammates, from the moment he made his varsity high school basketball debut in 1955-1956 … as an eighth grader.

Criscuola only appeared in four varsity games that year, missing his lone free throw attempt and failing to score.

But, from that moment on, he would be a fixture for the Wolves, one of the most consistent players ever to pull on the jersey.

Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing in at around 220 during his playing days, Criscuola knocked down 115 points as a freshman (fifth-best on the team) and 253 (third-best) as a sophomore.

His final two years, ’58-’59 and ’59-’60, he led the Wolves in scoring, going off for 306 and 305 points, respectively, to bring his high school career total to 979 points.

During his junior season, Criscuola led Coupeville to within a whisker of one of the great postseason upsets of all time.

La Conner and Darrington were overwhelming favorites at districts, and the first page of the tourney program devoted 80% of its space to listing their strengths.

Coupeville got a lonely paragraph at the end, a brief mention of “Strong Mike” and had, in the opinion of the writer, “faint hopes.”


The Wolves savaged Sultan 42-25, drilled Darrington (and its 6-foot-7 center, Randy Phillips) 47-36, then lost a donnybrook with La Conner in the title game, falling 62-55 as the Braves earned a trip to state.

It would be 11 years more before Stone and the ’69-’70 Wolves became the first Whidbey Island hoops team to win a district title, but a statement had been made in ’59 by “Strong Mike.”

Criscuola was (I believe) the school’s career scoring leader at his graduation, and held that mark for a decade, until Stone topped him right before graduating in ’70.

Even now, 57 years after his last game as a Wolf, with the addition of the three-point shot and a much-quicker, offensive-orientated game, Criscuola’s output stands tall.

Stone (1137), Mike Bagby (1104), Keefe (1088) and Jeff Rhubottom (1012) are the only CHS players to have surpassed him in almost six decades of play.

Somewhere down the road, hopefully soon, when CHS raises a basketball record board, Criscuola’s name will be back in the spotlight.

Until then, we’d like to take a moment today to welcome “Strong Mike” into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

After this, his name will live up at the top of the blog, under the Legends tab, forever a vital part of our town’s sports history.

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Jeff and Cindy Rhubottom. (Contributed photos)

   A flashback to the days when Rhubottom terrorized Wolf rivals on the hardwood.

   The socks were extraordinary, and so was their ability to put the ball in the hoop.

“Respect yourself. Respect your school.”

Jeff Rhubottom was one of the best athletes to ever walk the hallways of Coupeville High School, and he lived by that credo.

A 6-foot-4 tower of power, the 1978 Wolf grad was a 12-time letter winner (four times each in football, basketball and track and field), a two-time All-Conference hoops player and the school record holder in the high jump for more than a decade.

While fellow football player Rich Wilson (6-4) nipped Rhubottom’s mark (6-2) in 2000 — and retains the school record 17 years later — Rhubottom’s legacy still looms large.

He torched the basketball nets for 459 points his senior season in 1977-1978, the second-best single-season mark ever put up a Wolf, boy or girl.

Over the course of four seasons, while sharing the ball with some of the biggest scorers and sweetest shooters in CHS hoops history, he finished with 1,012 points.

In 100 seasons of Wolf boys basketball, only Jeff Stone (1137), Mike Bagby (1104) and Rhubottom contemporary Randy Keefe (1088) have topped that.

While he enjoyed his other sports (he was a tight end/outside linebacker in football and a sprinter, relay runner and state meet-qualifying high jumper on the track oval), basketball was always Rhubottom’s favorite.

“Making the starting five on the varsity squad in basketball my sophomore year” was a particular highlight, which allowed him to “play with great athletes like Bill Jarrell, Randy Keefe, Marc Bisset and Foster Faris.”

That unit played for legendary CHS coach Bob Barker, a man who had a huge positive impact on Rhubottom.

“Coach Barker (was a favorite) for his professionalism,” Rhubottom said. “I remember him quoting as he was handing out our red blazers, ‘You’re representing yourself as an athlete and you’re representing Coupeville High School’.”

CHS football coach Pat Lippincott and track guru Craig Pedlar (“great teacher, great coach”) also helped shaped the young Rhubottom into the man he became.

“Coach Pedlar brought Michael Ellsworth, Jeff Fielding, and myself to the State A Finals in Yakima in 1978,” Rhubottom said. “It was great to be involved with great athletes of the school.

“It’s what you did on Friday nights.”

Whether it was standing tall at the state tourney or ripping through the line to block a punt against Concrete, before scooping up the loose ball and taking it to the house for a touchdown, Rhubottom played with passion, for himself and his teammates.

“I loved and respected the athletic program, playing with great athletes in a small town.”

The lessons he learned as a Wolf benefited Rhubottom as he went on to build his own family (he has a son, Jeff, Jr.) and a career in the painting business.

“Working hard and being responsible and trying to stay in the best physical shape as the years go by. Keeping active,” have been his guiding principals.

Rhubottom considers himself “totally blessed,” having been married to Cindy, “the most beautiful, loving wife, mother, and grandmother” until she lost her battle with cancer in September, 2016.

Being “surrounded by loving new and old family” has helped him greatly.

As he looks back at his own career, Rhubottom calls on today’s Wolves to seize the day.

“Respect yourself. Respect your school. Give 110%. Enjoy the experience,” he said. “Have fun, because it goes by quick.

“Keep active. Always love the sport,” Rhubottom added. “It was fun to take a trip down memory road of my athletic career at Coupeville High School. These are memories I will cherish forever.”

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   Like his siblings before him, Kody Newman made a big splash at the state tennis tourney.

You know their name, cause athletic success is their game.

Few, if any, Whidbey Island families have had the kind of sustained excellence that Mike and Pam Newman’s children have brought to South Whidbey High School.

Jenny, Caitie, Riley, Lindsey, Hayley, Carlie and Kody have combined to win four state tennis titles, pour thousands of points through the basketball hoop, tear up the soccer pitch and generally be the gold standard for Falcon Nation.

While his older siblings left big shoes to fill, Kody, who will be a junior at SWHS this fall, has stepped right up.

Right out of the gate he made a splash at the state tennis tourney, finishing fourth in 1A as a freshman, winning three of four matches at the big dance.

As a sophomore hoops star, he torched Coupeville for a game-high 21, burying five treys.

For his next act, though, he’s going to mix things up a bit.

Newman, who’s played tennis, basketball and soccer since hitting high school, is headed to the baseball diamond next spring.

And, in a move sure to send shock waves through the net community his family has ruled, he may also switch up fall sports.

“I haven’t decided if I’m doing tennis again,” Newman said. “Or trying something new and play football.”

A talented natural athlete who lives for competition (“my life is sports,” he said with a laugh), Kody draws big rewards from his efforts.

“With sports I can always forget about my problems,” Newman said. “It’s just me and the ball, everything else is gone.

“I’m not thinking about my grades or drama around school, I’m thinking about why that jump shot didn’t go in, or how I can improve on bunting in baseball,” he added. “It’s very relaxing and can always make me happy!”

While he enjoys all his activities, if he had to choose one, the siren call of the hardwood is hard to ignore.

“My favorite sport is basketball,” Newman said. “I grew up playing with my siblings and it was a way we could all connect.

“I would rebound for my brother and sisters and they’d do the same so we could all improve.”

Having that chance to work on his skill-set, to take what genetics have given him and fine-tune his strengths while shoring up any (minor) weaknesses, drives Newman.

“I think that my desire to always get better and being open to constructive criticism is my best attribute,” he said. “I love getting feedback from people to always improve.

“I’d love to work on getting my vertical higher, because, with being shorter, it’s hard to get rebounds or block shots.”

As he’s progressed in all of his sports, Newman has had a string of coaches who have made an impact on him, both as an athlete and person.

He reels off an impressive list — “Mike Washington, Travis Tornga, Henry Pope, Ernie Merino, Tom and Karyle Kramer, Cj Baker and Josh Coleman” — then adds praise for others, as well.

“All the other coaches I’ve had, including Little League and Parks and Rec, and, of course, all my teammates,” Newman said. “Especially Lewis Pope for always teaching me moves and always being supportive!”

And don’t forget about his biggest fans, who have given him legends to aim for, and plenty of support as he finds his own path to success.

“Most importantly, my siblings and family for coming to all my sporting events and pushing me to do better.”

Newman has his eyes set on playing college ball, but his immediate future revolves around helping the Falcons fly high while competing against King’s and Archbishop Thomas Murphy in the always-tough 1A/2A Cascade Conference.

“I hope to make the playoffs again for basketball and hopefully help the baseball team go back to state,” he said.

In the few moments when he’s not living the athletic life, Newman, who wants to be a fire fighter, enjoys his science classes and spending time with family.

“I like spending time at the beach wake boarding with my brother, or playing beach volleyball with my sister or going to the pool with my girl friend,” he said.

While sports and life may take him away from his home in the future, the southern part of the Island, where he has grown up and grown into a star, will always be special.

“I love South Whidbey because everyone is kind to each other and it’s just an all round great community to be in.”

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   The first basketball team in Coupeville High School history. (Photo courtesy Megan Hansen/Whidbey News-Times)

It was a different time and a different game.

This Wednesday marks the 100-year (and six-month) anniversary of the first official basketball game in Coupeville High School history.

While CHS became a school in 1900 and graduated its first class (of three seniors) in 1904, the school waited until Jan. 19, 1917 to take an official stab at the game James Naismith invented in 1891.

Coupeville, under the direction of coach J.H. Hallock, blistered visiting Langley 29-7 that day, kicking off an inaugural season in which it went 7-3.

We can’t call them the Wolves, since that name didn’t get attached until years later — yearbooks from the ’20s refer to the school’s teams as the Cards — but they played like a ferocious pack.

According to stories in the Whidbey News-Times, the standout player on the six-player roster was Ed Kennedy, who led CHS to four straight Island County Championships during his playing days.

At a time when the pace of the game was far different from today, and scores were often equally muted, Kennedy would routinely score half of Coupeville’s output.

If you look at the photo above you can get a look at the high-scoring (for the time) center/forward in his later days, when he returned for the opening of Coupeville’s new gym in 1979.

Back in 1917, when Kennedy and his teammates were young lads, they waged war in a new gym of their own, referred to as a “play pavilion.”

Apparently it was so drafty fans kept their coats on while watching games, and the lighting in the joint was courtesy gas lanterns suspended from the ceiling on cables.

The floor was built from planks, and frequently gave players splinters if they were unfortunate enough to come in contact with it.

“I still have scars on my knees from that fir floor,” Kennedy is quoted as saying, while chuckling, in ’79.

Today, in memory of the seven who started our town’s long and successful basketball legacy, we’re doing two things.

One, we’re inducting them into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, a chance to be immortalized in an internet world they never imagined.

Inducted, as a team:

Fred Barrett
Altus Custer
Ed Fisher
Ben Gaskill
Clarence Keith
Ed Kennedy
J.H. Hallock

And, secondly, by weird coincidence, when the next boys basketball season rolls around, Coupeville is slated to have a home game against Chimacum Jan. 19, 2018.

So, I’m putting the call out to Wolf hoop coaches Brad Sherman and Chris Smith and CHS Athletic Director Willie Smith — we need to mark the moment.

Whether you want to do something big — find the oldest surviving Wolf basketball stars and bring them back for a reunion — or simply put a note in that night’s game program (heck, I’ll write one for you!), we need to celebrate the 101-year anniversary of Coupeville High School basketball.

When it comes to promotions, some things are just a slam dunk, and this is one of them.

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   Chad Gale scored 225 points during the ’87-’88 basketball season. The biggest four came in overtime against La Conner. (Photo courtesy Carmen McFadyen)

There’s been a bit of a dry spell.

It’s been 10,726 days since the last time a Coupeville High School boys basketball squad stepped on the court at the state tournament.

That day — March 3, 1988 — the Wolves were rocked 77-46 by Bridgeport, ending a very strong 19-6 season.

It was the fifth time a CHS boys hoops squad made it to the big dance, a figure which still stands as third-most in school history, trailing just baseball (nine trips) and girls basketball (seven).

But, as we look towards this winter, and the 30th anniversary of the ’87-’88 squad, the question has deepened — when will someone join them?

The 29+ year gap between state tourney trips is the longest for any Wolf program, edging out football, which last went in 1990.

With the exception of girls soccer, which has never made the trek in its short history as a team sport at CHS, every other active sport at the school has advanced to state at least once in the 2000’s.

Heck, cross country, which currently sends a handful of runners to train and travel with South Whidbey (with hopes of restarting its own program soon), saw Tyler King win a state title in a Wolf uniform in 2010.

The last time each active program tasted state glory:

Track – 2017
Girls basketball – 2016
Baseball – 2014
Boys Tennis – 2014
Softball – 2014
Boys Soccer – 2010
Girls Tennis – 2010
Volleyball – 2004
Football – 1990
Boys basketball – 1988

This winter, Brad Sherman, a star player in the early 2000’s, returns to take the reigns of the boys basketball program at his alma mater.

While preparing to bust the state tourney drought, he uncovered a stash of score-books jammed into a filing cabinet deep in the bowels of the CHS athletic complex.

One of those books is from the ’87-’88 season, giving us a chance to wander back through history and shine a spotlight on the last great run.

So, here we go, from someone who was still living in Tumwater when this season played out.

First observation — no one knew how to spell Timm Orsborn’s name (either part of it) as Coupeville’s leading scorer fluctuated all season from one M to two M’s and often had an E slapped on the end of his last name.

Future CHS baseball coach Marc Aparicio had a similar fate, becoming Marcus in the book for two games, then quickly reverting back to Marc.

But what about the games?

Regular season:

Coupeville 59, Granite Falls 48Orsborn opens the season with 27 on the road, and does it with perfect symmetry, nailing nine field goals and nine free throws.

La Conner 61, Coupeville 46 — The Braves, who go on to finish 5th at state, crack the game open with a 17-10 surge in the second quarter and steadily pull away.

Coupeville 69, Darrington 60 — The first home game of the season for the Wolves, and this time it’s Dan Nieder with the hot hand, as he banks in a game-high 26.

Things stay close all the way, but CHS swishes 9 of 11 free throws in the final quarter to seal the deal.

Coupeville 68, Snohomish County Christian 25 — Best defense of the season, as the Wolves hold their hosts to five or less points in three of four quarters. Meanwhile, Orsborn and Joe Tessaro each drop 10 in a single quarter on their own.

Coupeville 66, Concrete 38 — The game’s over after eight minutes, as CHS romps to a 22-5 lead. This edition of the Wolves was not a huge fan of the three-ball, hitting just 39 all season, but Neider nets three treys to fuel the attack.

Coupeville 81, Orcas Island 56 — Again with the quick start, this time to a 21-9 tune, and again with Neider on fire, as he hits for a season-high 29.

The teams combine for 48 points (28-20 CHS edge) in a wild fourth.

Coupeville 89, Quilcene 34 — The Wolves blow out fast (again), turning a 20-6 first quarter run into their most points of the year. Nine CHS players score, with four in double figures, yet not a single three-ball all day.

Friday Harbor 61, Coupeville 53 — Free throws send CHS to its second loss. Despite playing at home, the Wolves get only nine shots at the charity stripe (netting seven), while the visitors swish 18 of 25.

Coupeville 72, Crescent 71 — Wolves survive a 34-point barrage from Greg Halberg to pull out a thriller.

Tessaro knocks down 27, and this time, CHS gets to the line 23 times, including hitting 6 of 8 in the game’s final moments.

Coupeville 74, Lopez 59 — Five Wolves get into doubles figures, topped by Tessaro with 16, as CHS once against survives a 30+ point outburst from a rival. This time it’s Jason Kreul, who ripples the twines for six treys on his way to 34.

Future Central Whidbey Little League coach Fred Farris adds nine for Lopez. He averaged 19 per game for the season, but ran into a buzz-saw on defense in Wolf defender Brad Brown, who “was like glue on me.”

Lopez, which loved the three-ball, was the highest-scoring team in the state that year, but Coupeville was the one team which haunted them.

“They had me so frustrated I pulled up from half court (to shoot) with over two minutes to go,” Farris said. “Coupeville had a great squad that year.”

Coupeville 59, Watson-Groen 58 — One of those games that by virtue of its score was probably a nail-biter. The book only reveals so much, though.

Nieder tosses in 19, the lead is never more than four at the end of any quarter and CHS survives being out-shot at the line (13-17 to 6-15).

Coupeville 56, La Conner 55 (OT) — Revenge for the earlier loss, but it doesn’t come easy. Wolves storm out to a 10-point lead at the half, go cold in the second half (just 16 points), then slip away for the win in extra time.

With Nieder fouling out in the fourth, Gale steps up and hits four of his six points in overtime.

Coupeville 57, Darrington 47 — Up by nine at the half, the Wolves fall apart in the third, then rally in the fourth behind Nieder to keep win streak alive.

Coupeville 72, Snohomish County Christian 58 — 10 different CHS players put points in the scoring column in a romp which features one of the odder stats I’ve seen.

SNC shoots 40 free throws (including 29 in the second half), while the Wolves get just seven attempts.

Coupeville 62, Concrete 33 — Must have been different refs, as only 15 fouls are called all game. Concrete’s offense stalls out, failing to hit double digits in any quarter.

Coupeville 72, Orcas 59 — Rival gunner Rob Rancourt goes off, hitting 21 of his 29 in the fourth. But, even with a 29-14 Orcas rally over the final eight minutes, Wolves cruise to another win.

Coupeville 71, Friday Harbor 61 — Rally time, as Wolves use a 29-15 fourth quarter to storm from behind. Brown and Neider, who both score 21, tally 11 apiece in the final period.

Key to the rally? Free throw shooting, as CHS, which is 5-13 through three quarters, goes 11-12 in the fourth, including an 8-8 performance from Nieder.

Coupeville 84, Lopez 55 — Five players in double figures, led by Orsborn’s 19.

Coupeville 76, Watson-Groen 60 — CHS closes regular season by getting six guys into double digits. Gale drops 18 and Tony Ford goes off for 10 of his 14 in the fourth.


Coupeville 65, Watson-Groen 59 — Wolves open district play with an immediate rematch, and this time it’s closer.

Take away the third quarter (a 21-14 edge for CHS) and the game is a one-point affair, with the advantage to W-G, which only has four players score.

Tacoma Baptist 73, Coupeville 55 — The 12-game winning streak hits a wall.

The game is tied at the half, and Wolves trail just 46-45 heading into the fourth. Then, disaster. Tacoma rolls 27-10 over the final eight minutes, with Chris Kovacs scoring 13 of his game-high 36.

Free throw disparity (22-25 including 17-19 in the fourth for Tacoma vs. 7-15 for the Wolves) is a killer.

Coupeville 65, Crescent 54 — A quick bounce-back, keyed by an 18-9 second-quarter run in which six Wolves tally points.

La Conner 62, Coupeville 53 — The rubber match in the three-game season series goes to the Braves. Keys: an 18-8 second quarter and, once again, CHS gets clobbered at the free throw line (22-35 vs. 13-24).


NW Christian 55, Coupeville 35 — Down by one after one, Wolves hang around, trailing 23-18 at the break. They go cold in the third, though, and NWC, which claims 3rd in the tourney, puts the hammer down.

CHS hits a season-low at the charity stripe, with just one made free throw out of seven attempts.

Bridgeport 77, Coupeville 46 — Again, a close game for two quarters. Trailing 32-27 at the half, CHS gets waxed 24-6 in the third quarter.

Surprisingly, Bridgeport, which gets points from 11 different players, doesn’t place at the tourney, winning only this game.

So, in the end, a great run with a bit of a disappointing finish.

The ’87-’88 squad finished 19-6 overall (a win shy of the ’69-’70 team), 10-2 in league, a game from tying La Conner for the title. 12 straight wins, and 17 of 18 at one point.

Most importantly, those Wolves (and coaches Ron Bagby, Sandy Roberts and Cec Stuurmans) stand as the last CHS boys hoops team to reach the promised land.

Time for a new team to join them in making the trek.

Final ’87-’88 scoring stats:

Timm Orsborn 345
Dan Nieder
Joe Tessaro
Brad Brown
Chad Gale
Tony Ford
Tom Conard
Marc Aparicio
Brandy Ambrose
Andrew Bird
Morgan Roehl
Jason Legat
Chad Nixon

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