Dallas Bosko knew four years ago that he’d be coaching an awfully good basketball team in 2013.
The coach of Oak Park High School’s junior varsity boys’ team saw the talent that was coming down the neighbourhood pipeline and couldn’t wait to have it arrive.
That patience was rewarded on Saturday with a provincial title, as the Raiders defeated the St. Paul’s Crusaders 79-52 in the championship game in Winkler.
"I’ve known about these boys for four years now," Bosko said. "Aside from being great basketball players, they’re just great kids."
Bosko said the team played one of its best games of the season in the final, which is all a coach can ask of his players.
The Raiders were led by William Kohler, a 6-foot-7 Charleswood resident with an outside shot to go along with his dominant size under the basket. Kohler, the tournament MVP, had a triple-double (points, rebounds and blocks) in the final.
"He changes the game," Bosko said. "Defensively, especially. We can do things that nobody else can really do."
Kohler said he’s been working on his all-around offensive game for a couple years in an effort to prove that he can play away from the basket as well as down low.
"I think my shot did improve a lot this season," he said. "Once I started making shots, it sort of helped. I didn’t have to dribble in and there were more options available. There were opportunities for other guys down low."
The Raiders started the season strong, but ran into some trouble when their other big man, 6-foot-8 Roger Milne, was called up to the school’s varsity team. Some sloppy play led to a couple losses and forced the team to reinvent itself.
"Things weren’t looking great," Bosko said. "We had an exhibition game at Maples and played terrible in the first half."
During the intermission, the team talked about not wasting their chance to have a memorable season.
"High school goes by so quickly," Bosko said. "You only get about 100 games if you’re lucky."
The chat did the trick. The Raiders came out strong in the second half, won the game, and didn’t lose another game.
Oak Park’s semifinal win over Kildonan East was almost as sweet as the championship. Most of the players had been part of the Grade 9 team at Westdale School that lost in last year’s final by one point to the Reivers.
"It was an important goal to beat them," Kohler said. "It was very satisfying."
Much of Bosko’s satisfaction was saved for Victor Lee and Chris Howell, the two members of the team who played for Oak Park in Grade 9 after arriving at the school for the French immersion program.
"Victor’s one of the nicest kids in the world," the coach said. "He knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to close the game out."
Oak Park’s Will Sesay and Nic Zorcic were named tournament all-stars, along with Dharmjit Dhillion of Kildonan East, and Arpad Farkas and Christophe Towells of St. Paul’s.