The margin of victory for the Oak Park Raiders varsity girls’ basketball team was six points, and those six points couldn’t have come from a more fitting trio of graduating players.
The Raiders edged the defending provincial-champion Glenlawn Lions 71-65 in a championship game that was tied at 65 with less than a minute remaining.
Those deciding points came from Kerilynn MacLennan and Colleen Moyer, both playing in their third consecutive provincial final, and Jenilyn Monton, who was taking her fourth stab at a championship.
The Raiders had been close the previous three seasons, but each time had lost in the final game. This time, they capped an undefeated season with their 33rd win in as many games.
Moyer— the Raiders’ 6-foot-2 post who was tasked with defending Emily Potter, Glenlawn’s dominant inside player -- said she was feeling the nerves even though it was her third trip to the final.
"Maybe you get used to it a little bit," said the Charleswood resident, "But it’s still super exciting and nerve-wracking. They’re all different teams and situations. Maybe this time we were more excited and confident."
With the game airing on Shaw TV and a packed gym at the University of Manitoba, Moyer said it’s easy to get caught up in the moment.
"You want to tune all that out," she said.
Even a few days after the game, Moyer was basking in the glow of what her team had accomplished.
"It’s an incredible feeling," she said. "I still can’t believe it actually happened. I’m still in shock."
She said the team’s six Grade 12 players led the charge from September, getting the whole team in the gym daily to begin working toward their common goal.
Head coach Murray Brown, who last won a provincial championship in 2004, said he was thrilled for his players, particularly the Grade 12s.
"The group we had are just exceptional people and they set a great example for the younger kids on the team," Brown said. "I’m just so happy they were rewarded with something I think they deserved."
The undefeated run was something the Raiders were certainly thinking, but not talking, about. They became the first undefeated provincial champion in 38 years by treating every game with the same importance, Brown said.
"We all felt the pressure," he admitted. "It was there. We never talked about it as a team, and I give the kids credit. They focused on each game, not the streak."
Brown said the last four seasons have shown just how fine the line is between the joy of winning and the heartbreak of falling short. The Raiders were pushed to the limit in the quarter-final round as well, as Garden City got to within two points in the fourth quarter.
"It’s incredibly difficult to win," he said. "You need things to go right and you can’t have untimely injuries."