Vic Kohring - March 6, 1976

 

 Triumph over Adversity 

A Personal Testimony

By Vic Kohring, March 6, 2016 

Have you ever wanted something so bad you couldn't imagine life without it? I'm sure many have and I'm no exception. One that comes to mind occurred a long time ago in high school when I was obsessed with winning a state basketball championship. I loved the sport which I practically lived and breathed.

Basketball was far more important to me than school. It shouldn't have been my first priority, especially over education, but it was. It became so important that I placed enormous, almost unrealistic, pressure on myself to excel and win the coveted championship. Anything less would be a failure.   

It was 1976, our country’s bicentennial and a special time in history. I was a 17-year old senior at Anchorage's Dimond High School and member of the boy's varsity basketball team. With great anticipation for a successful season, I hoped would culminate in a state title and pave the way for a college career, I worked extra hard to prepare.

I ran several miles a day for conditioning, did sprint work, lifted weights and played lots of full-court pick-up games as part of my preseason regimen. I even studied the psychology of maintaining a positive mental attitude. Nothing but winning it all would suffice as I refused to accept second best. By the time the season began, I was in prime condition physically and mentally. I was ready to rumble.  

We got off to a blazing start, but fell into a downward spiral after going undefeated our first ten games and ended the regular season with a crushing one-point loss. To make matters worse, I injured my back two days before the playoffs and was considered done for the year. I had difficulty walking, let alone running.

I wouldn’t concede and was determined to play through my injury and against my doctor's advice, knowing I risked permanent damage. I sought prayers from my family and church pastor that a miracle be performed. I prayed, meditated and focused like a laser on getting well enough to play again. Playing was something I had to do. I would not be held back.   

The semi-final game in the state tournament featured the two best teams, Dimond and Monroe of Fairbanks. Many considered it the championship, even though it was still technically the semis. We were getting blown out by Monroe and at the end of the first quarter were down 22-13. It was grim. By the end of the third, our coach took a chance and put me in the game for the first time, knowing how chronic my injury was.

Operating on pure adrenaline and pent-up frustration mixed with high emotion, I went crazy on the court, blocking seven shots and scoring a burst of ten points on 5 for 5 shooting all in one quick eight-minute quarter, despite hobbling up and down the floor in pain. 

When the final buzzer sounded, we escaped with a two-point win and advanced to the title game the next day which we won easily as expected. I'm convinced my performance against Monroe was supernatural and not of my doing as I was simply too crippled to lead a team to victory on my own. The only explanation was divine intervention and that I was being used as an instrument of God as a testimony to my faith. God's presence through me on the court was powerful and touched the hearts of a few thousand people who witnessed what amounted to a spiritual event.   

I write these words on March 6, 2016, on the 40th anniversary of our state title. That evening in the West High gym, we defeated Ketchikan in the finals by over 25 points in one of the most lopsided championship victories in state history. Our season nearly ended in disaster, but we staged a comeback and emerged on top when it counted most.

Arriving home after the game ecstatic and with a gold medal around my neck was surreal and the achievement of a major life goal that nearly alluded me. But thanks to God's help, perseverance and gutting out a serious injury that I live with to this day, we reached the pinnacle of success.

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Vic's video tribute to coach Clay Dluehosh, recorded on March 23, 2016: 
  • The office on the right through the double doors is where Pastor Woods prayed with me for healing at Lake Spenard Baptist Church in Anchorage on March 3, 1976, the day before the state tournament commenced.

  • West Anchorage High School, where the miracle of March 5, 1976 occurred on the basketball court between Dimond and Monroe of Fairbanks before a packed house of 4500. A very special and inspiring event.

  • The original campus of Anthony J. Dimond High School built in the 1960's, where I played just one year of varsity basketball during the 1975-76 season after enduring several years of health challenges.

Vic Kohring (right) battles for a rebound against Dick Geraghty of Monroe on March 5, 1976

 Anchorage Times, Saturday, March 6, 1976

Dimond Nips Monroe Rams

    By Mike Granberry, Times Sports Editor

    The Dimond Lynx, which began the 1975-76 season in a blaze, but suffered a mid-season tailspin, are back on top again.

    The Lynx meet Ketchikan at 8:30 p.m. tonight in the finals of the state high school basketball playoffs at West High.

          "I can't explain why Vic played. He

      was praying about it. He's religious and

       and he really wanted to pray about it.

           He also really wanted to play."

         - Dimond Coach Clay Dluehosh

    Scoring their 20th victory of the season last night against Monroe High School of Fairbanks, 70-68, the Lynx emerged as favorite over Ketchikan which nipped West Valley 60-59 in last night's other encounter.

    Dimond offers the tallest team in this year's tournament, and Ketchikan Coach Robert Vincent appears concerned. His team is much shorter.

    The Lynx also understand momentum, which for them has appeared a workable concept in their drive toward the state title.

    Stopping Seward 58-55 in Thursday's quarter-finals, Dimond entered last night's game with an ailing player, Vic Kohring.

    Having suffered back problems recently, Kohring raised doubts over whether he would play again in the state tournament.

    Not only did he play, he scored perhaps Dimond's 10 most important points, all coming in the second half. Four of Kohring's five field goals occurred in the final period, when Dimond most needed them. 

    Monroe, playing only five players, stuck to its balanced scoring formula in placing all five in double figures. Dick Geraghty, who ought to make anybody's all-tournament team, scored 16, followed by Bart Noll with 15, Rick Freese with 14, Dan Driscoll with 13 and Rick Ott with 10. 

    Leading Dimond were Steve Halverson with 14 and Mike Clark with 12, not to mention Kohring's contribution.

   "I can't explain why Vic played," Dimond Coach Clay Dluehosh said after the game. "He was praying about it. He's religious, and he really wanted to pray about it. He also really wanted to play. He seemed to be in pain, but said playing wouldn't bother him. He did great. He really intimidated everybody out there."

    Almost from the end of the third period, which ended with Dimond leading, 48-45, the Lynx maintained the advantage. Behind Kohring, however, Dimond widened its lead to five points with one minute, one second remaining. Mark Hanley then followed with two free throws and Dimond pulled ahead, 68-61.

    By that time, Monroe was suffering offensively, and had little hope of recovery.

    The Rams also appeared to be fading, since Dimond's running game and height combined for an evening of exhaustion.

   "We wanted to run," Dluehosh said. "I don't think they liked to play as fast as they played tonight. We got going, and stuck with it."

   "In the first half - I don't know what it was, the jitters or something - we just couldn't put it together. Russell Moore (a Dimond guard) came in, and gave us a lift. He seemed to ignite our offense. Tom Maraz also gave us a boost at times when we needed it."

   "Really, I think everybody was pulling together tonight," he added. "It was a positive contribution on the part of everybody. This is the way this team is."

   "They seem to show a lot of care for the other guy. There's not a lot of inward competition like there is on some teams. I think everybody, me included, has learned a lot about life this season. We've all had a good season. We've all had a lot of fun."

    Also aiding Dimond were a dozen free throws. Dimond missed only one free throw, which is slightly better than its 70 percent average.

   "You know, we started off with 10 straight wins, then we hit a slump," Dluehosh said. Now, I think we're back on the track. But through it all, our free throw shooting has been superb."

    Dimond's back-on-the-track effort began this week, after a 54-52 triple-overtime loss to West in the Region IV finals last week.

    The Lynx defeated Seward, an old nemesis, 58-55, in Thursday's quarter-finals. (Seward downed Wrangell 70-64 in yesterday's consolation play. The Seahawks meet West at 3:30 p.m. today in a battle for fifth place.)

    All that remains for Dimond is Ketchikan, which Dluehosh believes will be "difficult."  

The 1976 state championship team at it's 40-year anniversary gathering (being introduced at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage) on March 26, 2016 - minus Vic Kohring. A bunch of old men!

With my teammates in February 1976.