The Carillon - ONLINE EDITION
By: Terry Frey
Posted: 04/26/2019 10:49 AM
Sprague’s Ross L. Gray Raiders have been a legendary, almost mythical high school basketball powerhouse in Manitoba for the past 50 years or so.
And now, some of those teams, from one of Manitoba’s smallest high schools, will be honoured by their induction into the Manitoba Basketball Hall of Fame.
The announcement of the Raiders’ induction was made at a press conference last week at the Manitoba Basketball Hall of Fame at the University of Winnipeg.
Being inducted are the Raiders’ varsity girls teams from the 1970’s and 80’s who won eight provincial titles in either the ‘A’ or ‘AA’ categories over a 15-year period. Those will include players from the championship years of 1973-74, 1974-75, 1977-78, 1980-81, 1981-82, 1982-83, 1985-86 and 1988-89.
The Ross L. Gray Raiders have a storied history in high school basketball, a program that celebrated 50 years last year so it is fitting that some great teams from the past will be memorialized in the Hall of Fame.
The incredible stories of the Ross L. Gray Raiders have been documented many times in these pages over the past decades, and these stories deserve to be told again and again.
A resident expert on all these matters, at least as it pertains to the school and basketball at Ross L. Gray, is none other than Doris Hovorka. Now well into her 70’s, she never played for the Raiders, but all four of her daughters did and several grandchildren, since then.
It was her husband Marvin Hovorka, the former principal at the school, who started the Raiders’ basketball programs in a community hall in the late 60’s, a few years before the gym was built at the school, opening in 1972, and still being used today as the base for countless provincial championship basketball teams, both boys and girls, since that time.
Doris Hovorka spent more than 40 years as a teacher at the school, from 1966 until 2007, including her last 14 years as principal and she talks about those early years.
It was the legendary Terry Gotziaman, who came to the school in 1969 in his first teaching job, with no particular expertise in basketball. By the time he left 15 years later, he had built a basketball juggernaut, which was woven, and still is today, into the very fabric of the community.
When Gotziaman left Ross L. Gray in 1984 to take a position at nearby Roseau, his successors coaching the girls’ basketball program have carried on with those same winning ways. Coaches such as Marc Gadient, John Bukich, Adrian Cote and for the past 14 years, Darryl Peterson.
Bukich now coaches junior high basketball in Winnipeg, and Hovorka was quick to point out he was coaching her granddaughter at the school. That is probably no coincidence. Those Ross L. Gray roots run deep.
That first championship team of 1973-74 included three Cote sisters: Lydia, Lynn and Cindy. Siblings playing together on those teams was commonplace, after all, pretty well everyone played on the teams.
Current principal Jared Baines, a native of Sprague, who excelled in hockey, but also took his turn coaching boys’ basketball at the school, says it is indescribable the pride that everyone feels at the school with the Hall of Fame announcement, "we are just relishing the moment, and enjoying the honour."
Ross L. Gray is a K-12 school, but there are only 32 high school students in grades 9-12. By extension and almost by necessity, almost every student plays basketball, at a very high level.
During those championship years in the 70’s and 80’s, the Raiders would routinely beat teams from much larger schools, including the SRSS and countless Winnipeg schools.
One of those players was Karen Strobel, who graduated in 1980, who now lives in Winnipeg and attended the Hall of Fame announcement along with several other alumni. "Sprague basketball, it’s what we did, we played year round, it was a tradition, by the time you got to grade seven, you wanted to be on the team, we worked hard and played hard."
Gotziaman, who is now retired and lives in Bemidji, said this week, "I just have fond memories of those years, it remains a highlight of my teaching career."
Gotziaman, along with so many others from the school, and the community, supporters through all these years, will be on hand at the 2019 Manitoba Basketball Hall of Fame induction banquet, to be held Saturday, Sept. 28 at the Victoria Inn in Winnipeg.
Also being inducted will be the Dauphin Regional Secondary School Clippers, who won three varsity boys provincial titles in the 1970s.
There will be four players inducted: Belaineh DeGuefe, Margaret Mulder, Isabel Thomson and the late Mike Vaira. Builders going into the Hall of Fame will include: Irv Hanec, Larry McDougall, Bill Moody and Dennis Wilson.
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