Buchan: Dayton's Turner big fan of 1995 champs

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DAYTON - You don't find many high-school kids who dig watching old movies.

But Garett Turner, one of six seniors on this year's Dayton High boys basketball team, is an exception. There's this one old classic in particular.

For years now, Garett has been popping the same 1995 tape into his VCR and reliving the final scene of what is remembered by many as the most magical period in Bulldogs athletic history. It's the recorded telecast of Dayton's 68-46 victory over Toutle Lake in the Washington Class B state championship game in Spokane.

"I have watched it a ton of times," said Garett, who will lead the Bulldogs back to state Thursday in the Spokane Arena for the first time since 1995. "I like to watch how that team worked together."

Garett was barely a year old when his grandparents, Phil and Linda Groom, taped the game the night Will Hutchens scored 27 points and hauled down 11 rebounds in leading Dayton to its first and only state basketball title.

Three months earlier, the Bulldogs had beaten Toutle Lake 35-22 in the Kingdome in Seattle for Dayton's only state football championship. And that prior spring, Dayton claimed a boys state track and field championship as well.

The 1995 Bulldogs finished their championship run with a 28-1 record. This year's Dayton team takes a 23-1 record to Spokane and, ironically, opens tournament play at 5:30 p.m. against Toutle Lake.

That's not the only comparison Garett can see between this year's Bulldogs and the 1995 state champions.

"They had a good group of guys just like we do," he said. "They were a team that got up and down the floor and got on a roll, and we are similar to the way they ran. And the defensive pressure I see is like our real strong defense.

"I like seeing what made them a special team and how we compare to them."

Garett also sees some individual similarities.

Fellow senior Colton Bickelhaupt, for example, is this year's version of Matt Talbott, the Bulldogs' point guard in 1995.

"Matt Talbott and Colton are pretty similar," Garett said. "They are both point guards and pass-first guys who help someone else find their shot rather than finding their own. And they were both quarterbacks on the football team."

Garett likens another of this year's seniors, Kroft Sunderland, to Jeremy Hubbard of the 1995 champs. Senior Hayden Fullerton plays the role Jeff Skeeter did back then. And junior reserve Wyatt Frame plays the part of Clay Hutchens.

"Kroft plays a lot like Jeremy Hubbard did. They're built a lot alike," Garett said. "Like Jeff Skeeter, Hayden is a starter who hits open shots and is a big-time player. And Clay Hutchens would come off the bench and be a spark plug for them just like Wyatt does for us."

But even though Garett leads his team in scoring with an 18-point average, he refuses to compare himself to Will Hutchens, the 1995 star who went on to play at Washington State University.

"Nobody is as good as Will," Garett said. "He was a heckuva player who averaged 20-some points a game and did it all for them. I can't compare to what he did for that team."

Garett got the opportunity to see first-hand the kind of player Hutchens still is when the Bulldogs great came home to participate in an alumni game during Garett's junior year.

"Will was still pretty quick," Garett said. "I don't think he's lost a step, and he was real aggressive."

Most of those 1995 Bulldogs moved away long ago. But Clay Hutchens, Will's younger brother, operates the family farm outside of town, and he has shared his state tournament experience with this year's team on more than one occasion.

"He's talked to us and given us an inspirational speech or two about his high school career and told us what you have to do if you ever get there," Garett said.

Earlier this week, Clay Hutchens spoke at a school pep rally, Garett said.

"He had four main points. But the biggest one, the quote we all got, was at the end. He said, ‘Respect all but fear none.' That's the motto that we like to think of."

Because the Bulldogs don't play until late Thursday afternoon, the team won't depart for Spokane until early that morning. Which is just fine with Garett, because he has plans for tonight.

"I've watched that 1995 game several times this season, and I definitely want to watch it once more. I'll probably watch it (tonight), maybe get a feel for Toutle Lake."

Contact Jim Buchan at jimbuchan@wwub.com.

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