As the buzzer sounded and the Washougal girls basketball team screamed with excitement on March 2, their state championship celebration was drowned out for a moment by the noise coming from a small sea of orange-clad fans in the stands.
These were the loyal Panthers fans who have followed this team for years.
Sure, the crowd was loaded with parents and students, but it also contained faithful folks such as 1955 Washougal High graduate Forrest Seagraves. The 81-year-old hasn’t missed a Washougal home game all season and said he made the three-hour drive to Yakima by himself. He was in the Yakima Valley SunDome last year as well.
“Remember last year when I told you they were going to get a medal?” Seagraves asked the Post-Record reporter covering the 2A Hardwood Classic on March 2. “Well, by God, they got one.”
The Washougal girls basketball team has attracted large crowds all season, sometimes filling the Washougal High School gymnasium to the rafters and intimidating opposing teams.
And what a good season it was. The Panthers went undefeated in league play for the first time in the school’s history and then won Washougal’s first-ever state title in 2A basketball.
The Washougal cheer squad also has played a big role in the team’s success, pumping up the crowds with players often feeding off the cheerleaders’ energy.
The Panthers cheerleaders brought home their own trophy to Washougal High School, finishing third in the state competition in February.
The Washougal High School Band provided a backbeat for the award-winning season, showing school pride with orange colored instruments and getting the fans’ feet tapping with songs like “Smoke on the Water.”
For band director and Washougal alumnus Kelly Ritter, the experience of going to state was extra special because she still remembers when the Washougal boys basketball team went to state during her senior year in 1995.
“It’s really fun to see this program come around full circle. It’s just awesome,” Ritter said.
A few former Washougal basketball players were in the crowd cheering on the current state champions on March 2.
Kim Rink, who played in a state playoff game for the Panthers in 1983 and Trula Anderson (Ketchmark) who played basketball for Washougal and graduated in 1960, both attended the state championship game in Yakima.
Anderson said girls basketball is almost unrecognizable — but much better — compared to what she experienced in high school. “In 1960, the guards were not allowed to cross center court, so it was just the two forwards and center playing three-on-three at one end of the court, and the guards never scored,” Anderson said.
The former basketball player added that she had attended high school with Beyonce and Skylar Bea’s late grandfather, Richard Bea.
“He was a special guy and would be so proud of these girls,” Anderson said.
Brad Bea, Beyonce and Skylar’s father, said he loved the family atmosphere at Washougal High School and the fact that Washougal fans’ support for their home team runs so deep.
“Our family has deep roots in this community, but the fans have supported this team in a way that actually amazes the girls,” Brad Bea said. “We all feel extremely blessed.”