Everett High School basketball team wins the state championship on March 16, 1940.

  • By Phil Dougherty
  • Posted 8/14/2010
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 9519

On March 16, 1940, the Everett Seagulls win their first state high school basketball championship.  Still considered to be one of the best high school basketball teams in state history, the "wonder team" not only finishes with a perfect 29-0 season, but also sets numerous records during the championship tournament.

The Wonder Team

“Everett Seagulls -- cocks of the walk!” crowed the Seattle P-I on March 17, 1940, the day after the Seagulls won the state high school basketball tournament.  But such a victory seemed anything but assured when the Seagulls started their season late in 1939. 

The Gulls seemed almost jinxed in their ability to win a state championship. Everett had participated in 14 of the 16 preceding state tournaments, coming in second in 1937 and 1938 before slipping to fifth in 1939. And there was little to indicate that the 1940 team would be the one when the season began, although the team had a new coach, 27-year-old Jimmy Ennis.

But Ennis brought a magic that no one expected. He took mostly average basketball players and turned them into champions with hours of drills after school. He raised hell if a player made a mistake in practice, but never during a game. His players understood that he genuinely cared about them, and that his goal was not just about winning but included personal improvement and sportsmanship.

Thus the 1940 Seagulls were motivated in a way that no Everett team had been motivated before.  They blew through the regular season undefeated, won the district tournament in Snohomish, and headed to the state tournament in Seattle at the University of Washington Pavilion (today [2010] known as the Hec Edmundson Pavilion) on March 13.

Making History

Everett won its first game handily, walloping West Valley High School of Millwood (Spokane County) 45-6.  The next evening the Gulls beat Bremerton, 49-28, and the following night moved to the semi-finals against Stadium High School of Tacoma. The Stadium Tigers put a scare into the Seagulls early in the game, running up a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, and still led 7-4 as the quarter ended.  But Everett came back in the second quarter and surged ahead, winning 42-22, and advancing to the finals against Oakville (Grays Harbor County) on March 16, 1940.

Eight thousand fans watched history being made as the Seagulls whipped the Oakville Acorns 64-19 that Saturday night.  It was never close.  Everett opened an 8-0 lead before the Acorns even scored.  By the end of the first half the Gulls led 26-6, and by the end of the third quarter, 47-12. Ennis sent in his second team at the start of the fourth quarter, and for a few minutes there was a pause in the scoring run up. But with less than four minutes left in the game the Seagull’s regular team returned and poured it on, “traveling up and down the floor with breakneck speed and recovering rebounds with unerring accuracy,” recounted the Everett Daily Herald the next day. The Gulls added 15 points in the final four minutes of play alone.

Record After Record

The Seagulls broke record after record in the tournament. Everett’s total of 200 points in those four games set a record for most number of points scored by a team in a state tournament.  The Gulls’ 64 points in the championship game smashed by nine points the record for most points scored in a state tournament game, and their 45-point margin of victory was also the largest ever recorded, beating the three-day-old record of 39 points set by Everett in its victory over West Valley four days earlier. (West Valley’s score of six points in that game set a record for the lowest number of points scored by a team in a tournament game.)  Finally, team captain Bob Cummins’s 20 points in the final game was the highest individual score for any game in the 1940 tournament. (Bill Gissberg, who later became a powerful Washington state senator, was the second highest scorer in the final game with 17 points.)

The Seagulls closed the season with a 29-0 record, the first high school basketball team in state history to pull off an undefeated season, and took home the winner’s trophy for the first time. Superlatives reigned in newspaper accounts of the team’s performance. But in a nod to true sportsmanship, when the Acorns captain Will Saunders went to the center of the floor after the game to receive the second-place trophy and was asked to say a few words, he answered, “We’re not a bit ashamed to be beaten by a great club like Everett” (Seattle Star).

Sources: “Seagulls Work Hard For State Meet,” The Everett Daily Herald, March 12, 1940, p. 17;  “Seagulls Set Up Scoring Record,” Ibid., March 14, 1940, p. 18;  “Everett To Meet Stadium Next,” Ibid., March 15, 1940,  “Everett Meets Oakville Five At 9 O’Clock,” Ibid., March 16, 1940, p. 1;  “Records Fall As Everett Wins Championship,” Ibid., March 18, 1940, p. 1;  “Rivals Swamped In Final Game,” Ibid., March 18, 1940, p. 8;  Harold Shaw, “Gulls Trounce Oakville In Finals,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 17, 1940, p. 19;  “Everett Hails First State Hoop Champions,” Seattle Star, March 18, 1940, p. 15;  Steve Christilaw, “Gathering To Remember -- Biggest Man Missing From Everett Team’s Reunion,” The Seattle Times, August 13, 1990, website accessed July 4, 2010 (http://www.community.seattletimes.nwsource.com).

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You