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Slikker returns to old stomping grounds opposite Bono tonight

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Former Weston Ranch varsity boys basketball head coach Bill Slikker, left, and then-assistant Ryan Bono celebrate after clinching a share of the Valley Oak League championship at Manteca High in 2008.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED January 13, 2012 1:01 a.m.

After what seemed like the perfect swan song and the picturesque way to hang up his whistle, Bill Slikker tip-toed off into the sunset after a 14-0 Valley Oak League championship run as Weston Ranch head coach in 2008.

Slikker handed the keys over to his second-in-command, JV head coach Ryan Bono. Bono, in every effort to remove himself from the shadow of his predecessor, lifted the Cougars back to the top spot last year, posting another perfect 14-0 title run to go along with a school-record 26 wins.

How was Bono rewarded?

By being forced, during a final proofing session, to politely request that his 2011 Weston Ranch Valley Oak League Championship banner read “Ryan Bono, Head Coach” instead of “Bill Slikker, head coach.”

Escaping from the tall, imposing, no-nonsense coach’s legacy is not only difficult because of his height. His stature looms twice as large. He took a one-win Weston Ranch Cougar program to the tippy-top of the VOL standings, and it wasn’t on a five-year plan.

Players, coaches and parents alike co-sign his every move like the man is incapable of doing wrong.

Bono, on the other hand, can seemingly do no right.

He was ridiculed for his choice of team Most Valuable Player after last year’s 26-win campaign. Sure, he got a couple of golf-claps for rolling off the 14-0 VOL season, but he lost to the eventual Sac-Joaquin Section Champions by seven in the semifinals.

Epic fail!

Now the entire squad returns, minus last year’s most valuable piece, and Bono is expected to make it work again. The talented group has already lost a chance at an always-challenging 14-0 season and while trying to get things back on the right track, guess who’s back?

Slikker was handed back his whistle by default when the Lathrop head coaching job became vacant, and needless to say he took the matter seriously. The eerie voice and spooky looks or back on the sidelines, piercing Lathrop players’ ears and eye sight.

Oh yeah, and it’s working. The Spartans are 2-1 in VOL and boast a double-digit win over a Manteca High squad that stopped Weston Ranch 42-40.

So right when Bono has his most challenging task in his fourth season as a head coach, in comes a Bill Slikker coached group that will definitely know how much the game will mean to their “new” coach.

When the two clubs meet tonight at Weston Ranch, the winner will have their third VOL win, the loser will be coping with their second loss. For the coaches, I’m sure there will be a little added incentive.

Especially for the one who really wants to win.

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