With all five starters graduating, Central Valley coach Ray Thacker had to replace his entire starting line-up as the 1961-62 basketball season began.
The young men who stepped forward to fill the vacant spots did extremely well. The Bears finished the regular season in 1962 ranked No. 1 in the state by the Associated Press.
Playing a ball-control style of offense, Thacker basically relied on six players in 1962 -- Dale Beauchamp, Gary Burch, Bob Keppel, Stan Chalich, Mike Dahl and John Hull.
Their only set-back of the regular season was a non-league 48-47 overtime loss at Ephrata. The Bears dominated the Spokane City League, going undefeated, and finishing four games ahead of runner-up West Valley.
Entering the state tournament in Seattle with a 19-1 record, CV easily defeated its first two opponents, Olympia and Puyallup. That put the team in the semifinals against the defending state champion Garfield Bulldogs.
The athleticism of the Bulldogs put the Bears on their heels and Garfield dominated, sporting a 33-19 lead at the end of the third quarter. Garfield scored at 5:54 of the fourth to make it 36-23 and never scored again. The Bears began a furious rally led by Keppel’s three baskets down the stretch. Chalich scored with 59 seconds to go to make it 36-35. With less than 20 seconds to go in the game, the Bulldogs missed a free throw but got the rebound. The Garfield player was then called for traveling and in frustration bounced the ball high off the court. Everyone looked to the officials for the obvious technical foul, but the whistles remained silent. With 8 seconds to go CV called a time out, but couldn’t get a shot off after the inbound pass. The rally fell short by a point.
The next afternoon Central Valley faced Richland for third and sixth place. This game was a high-scoring affair and one more time the Bears had to rally, again falling just short, 71-70.
Since Coach Thacker had to replace his entire team at the beginning of the year, getting a league crown, a sixth-place state finish, and a 21-3 overall record was probably more than he expected. It also pointed out what a difference three points can make on a season. With one more basket in each of the three losses the Bears could have had a perfect record.