It’s been 50 years, but Larry Soliday still remembers the closing seconds of the back and forth championship game between his undefeated Reardan Indians and the undefeated Orting Cardinals.
The game was tied at 55, with 44 seconds left when Soliday, a 5’ 7’’ guard, was fouled and went to the line. He made both free throws, and then about 20 seconds later nailed another to seal the game.
“It was a will power issue. I knew I’d made some mistakes and I had to get serious,” Soliday said. “I simply sucked it up and said ‘I’m going to finish.’”
Soliday’s free throws wrapped up a remarkable fourth quarter and made him the unlikely hero of the 1966 championship game. The senior guard didn’t start the game and went 0-6 in the third quarter. His coach, Frank Teverbaugh, pulled him out of the game at that point. Soliday said that’s when he decided to get serious.
And he did. Soliday scored 13 of his team’s 17 fourth-quarter points. Reardan won, 58-55, in front of a sold-out crowd at the old Spokane Coliseum.
Larry Soliday (on right) talks with Paul Jones about the championship State B game in 1966 where he scored the final Reardan High School points to win the game over Orting High School. Jones’ brother Mike also played on that winning Reardan team 50 years ago. (SR Photo: Colin Mulvany)
Thursday, Soliday watched Northwest Christian play Morton-White Pass in the 2016 State B Hardwood Classic. Although the game was a close athletic affair, Soliday was often interrupted by old friends stopping to chat.
Soliday knows many of the area players and is a regular at Reardan games. His three sons all played for Reardan, and then went on to play college ball. One of his sons, Rhett Soliday, now coaches the Vanguard Lion’s mens basketball team in California.
On Friday, Soliday will reunite with nine of his teammates from the 1966 championship game. The group of men have met five times in the last 50 years, all at the B tournament.
While Soliday’s story might be one of the more dramatic to come out of the state Bs, his dedication and continued connection to the tournament is nothing special.
“You have generation after generation who have come the B tournament,” said tournament Director Bonnie Long. “It’s pretty unique in that respect.”
Long said she met an older couple who come to the tournament every year, even though they don’t have kids playing, or even necessarily know the players. When she asked them why they came they said, “we’re part of this community so of course we are part of this team.”
Jack Soliday, Larry’s younger brother and a Reardan star in his own right, was also in attendance on Thursday.
“This is small-town America at its greatest,” he said. “The B tournament has been a huge, intricate part of Spokane.”
Many of Long’s tournament staff are former players, cheerleaders, band members or simply dedicated fans. Long, who has been the director of the tournament for eight years, and has been attending the tournament in one way or another for 43 years, jokes that she’s a newbie compared to most.
At halftime during the Northwest Christian game Soliday’s former coach, Teverbaugh, came to sit next to him. Like Soliday, Teverbaugh remembers the championship game and rattles off Soliday’s statistics, looking over at Soliday occasionally to check his memory.
“It was the best feeling I’ve ever had, except when I got married,” Teverbaugh said of winning the championship.
After graduating high school Soliday served in the Air Force, where he also played basketball. He then played for Spokane Community College and played professionally for a summer in San Antonio. He coached at Reardan and Cusick.
Still, his fondest basketball memories come from the 1966 State B tournament where he was the undersized second-string guard.
“There is nothing better,” he said of the memory.
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