By Vic Kohring
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. It 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 boys 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 dozen 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. But 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 semi's. We were getting blown out by Monroe and at the end of the first quarter were down 27-11. 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 couple thousand people who witnessed what amounted to a spiritual event.
I write these words on March 4, 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.