The Associated Press Neah Bay’s Rweha Munyagi (1) leaps into the air in celebration after his team defeated Almira/Coulee-Hartline during the WIAA Class 1B state championship basketball game on Saturday, March 5, 2016 in Spokane.

The Associated Press Neah Bay’s Rweha Munyagi (1) leaps into the air in celebration after his team defeated Almira/Coulee-Hartline during the WIAA Class 1B state championship basketball game on Saturday, March 5, 2016 in Spokane.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Neah Bay’s basketball title is top story of 2016

PORT ANGELES — Over the seasons the carpeted floors inside the locker rooms of Spokane Arena have absorbed their fair share of heartbroken tears. The arena is the annual host of the Class 1B and 2B state basketball championships, which means at least four boys and girls squads make the walk back to their locker rooms with heavy hearts and without the gold ball, the prize for title-winning teams.

This was the case for Neah Bay in 2011, 2013 and 2015.

But the hoops-mad hamlet would celebrate its first basketball championship, boys or girls, when the Red Devils boys (22-3) handed Almira/Coulee-Hartline (25-1) its first loss of the season in a 73-48 title-game triumph back on March 5, 2016.

The 2015-16 squad became the first boys basketball team from the North Olympic Peninsula to win a state title. Port Townsend won the 1A girls championship in 1984.

That sets Neah Bay’s breakthrough apart as the Peninsula Daily News’ top sports story of 2016.

Sure, the three (now four) state football championships Neah Bay has won in recent seasons were terrific displays of athleticism, will and determination.

But this basketball championship had been decades in the making — a total of 21 state tournament appearances in school history, including 12 trips to Spokane in the past 13 seasons.

This one meant more.

“It’s bigger,” head coach Stan Claplanhoo said.

“As far as basketball has always been No. 1 in this town.”

Claplanhoo is a former Red Devil standout who made three state trips to the old Boone Street Barn from 1984-87.

He played on the 1987 team with Kenrick Doherty Sr., the father of 2016 Neah Bay guard Kenrick Doherty Jr.

The elder Doherty had done his fair share of consoling his older sons Drexler and Leyton, seniors on the 2011 and 2013 teams that came up just short. Kenrick Jr. knocked down two 3-point baskets and a layup to score the Red Devils’s first 10 points in the 2016 title game.

A 17-0 third quarter run, keyed by seven points by Ryan Moss and six from Rweha Munyagi, lifted Neah Bay to an insurmountable 50-29 lead.

Moss, the 2015-16 All-Peninsula Boys Basketball MVP, is the son of Rob Moss, the Red Devils all-time leading scorer and member of the school’s seventh-place team in 1984.

Faith, family and transition defense leading to easy buckets. It’s the Neah Bay way.

Here are other stories that resonated on the North Olympic Peninsula in 2016:

• 2. Neah Bay wins football crown

The Red Devils (11-1) capped a run to their fourth state championship victory in six seasons with a convincing 64-34 win over Odessa-Harrington in the 1B state title game Dec. 3.

The Red Devils, eager to steel themselves for another run at the golden ball state trophy, were tested all season with a schedule that included two wins over Class 1A Chimacum and Forks, two more against Class 2B Morton-White Pass and Seattle Lutheran and a split of two games with rival Lummi, were prepared for this championship game — and it showed.

“There’s no 1B team that played a more difficult schedule this year,” Neah Bay senior Kenrick Doherty Jr. said. “We were able to gain confidence from those games each week and it paid off for us.”

• 3. Port Angeles gets a baseball team

Initial rumblings of a Port Angeles-based West Coast League baseball franchise started last spring and the team’s arrival for the 2017 season was confirmed when the Port Angeles City Council approved a three-year agreement to use Civic Field as the team’s home with MACK Athletics, a group headed up by Matt Acker of Lacey.

Acker announced the team’s name would be the Port Angeles Lefties, a nod to the importance of left-handers in the game of baseball and nothing to do with partisan politics, in September.

A marmot mascot named Timber soon followed. Timber will entertain fans at games and community events.

Outfielders Alex Junior, a speedster who plays at Tennessee Tech, and Dylan Vchulek of the University of Hawaii, were the first players to sign with the squad.

The club also added Ryan Hickey as general manager, Zach Miller as the on-field manager, Scott Anderson as pitching coach, Brandon Templar as hitting/defense coach and Damon Porter as bullpen coach.

Port Angeles also will host Opening Day of the West Coast League’s 2017 season, a contest with the rival Victoria HarbourCats, on Thursday, June 1.

• 4. Peninsula women’s soccer wins NWAC title

Bri Vallente’s golden goal in the 107th minute of the NWAC Women’s Soccer Championship lifted the Peninsula College women’s soccer team to a 1-0 win over Highline and the its third title in school history.

“We deserved it. We were a deserving champion. That doesn’t mean other teams weren’t deserving champions,” said coach Kanyon Anderson.

Anderson said the Pirates were deserving because of their attitude and hard work. He had a 20-0 squad in 2013, and he felt the 2016 team’s 19-1-1 squad was better.

“This is a really, really special group. I’ve never had a group so positive and honest. I’ve never been able to get the level of commitment I’ve seen from these girls,” Anderson said.

“I told them ‘talent doesn’t win you championships, it’s the work that you do.’”

• 5. PA soccer edges Sequim for state

In their third match of the season, and second decided by penalty-kick shootout, Port Angeles topped rival Sequim for a spot in the Class 2A state girls soccer tournament. It was the Roughriders (11-9-1) first state appearance since 1986, while the best season in Wolves’ history (11-8-1) came to a close.

• 6. Trio of baseball teams make state

Port Angeles (19-6), Sequim (14-9) and Quilcene (15-6) baseball teams all advanced to state baseball tournaments last May.

The Roughriders, led by strong senior pitchers, including All-Peninsula Baseball MVP Travis Paynter, Curran Bradley, Janson Pederson and Ryan Rodocker, fell 2-1 in 12 innings to Ephrata.

Tied entering the bottom of the seventh, Sequim fell 3-0 to Ellensburg in a downpour in Centralia.

Quilcene’s season ended with a 5-2 loss to Naselle.

• 7. Three teams to state softball

Those same three schools, Port Angeles, Sequim and Quilcene also advanced to state softball tournaments.

Port Angeles (23-2) won its third straight Olympic League title on the way to state. Sequim (20-7) won two consolation-bracket games in its sixth consecutive state appearance.

And Quilcene earned its second straight third-place finish at the 1B tournament.

8. Peninsula women make title game

The Peninsula College women’s basketball team made a repeat trip to the NWAC Championships, hoping to win its second title in as many years. But the Pirates fell short in a championship-game rematch with the Lane Titans.

9. Kayaker hauls in massive halibut

Edmonds’ kayaker Leo Vergara hauled in a 124-pound halibut while on his first-ever halibut fishing trip off Strawberry Rock near Neah Bay in May. The haul set a record for largest halibut caught while kayaking in the lower 48 states.

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