Congratulations to the St. Paul's Lutheran School boys basketball team for winning the National Tournament of Champions in Valparaiso, March 28-30. St. Paul's defeated Garden Homes Lutheran School from Milwaukee to gain the championship and complete an undefeated 36-0 season. For the St. Paul's Bears and for the coaching staff, headed by Jerry Ratzburg, this was their first national championship, having participated in the tourney for the past four years. On top of the championship, two Bears also earned all-tournament honors: Keion Brooks Jr. and Jadon Hill. Also from the Fort Wayne area, Sylare Starks of Holy Cross Lutheran earned all-tourney honors in the girls portion of the tourney.
A major part of the tournament is highlighting and emphasizing sportsmanship. The individual sportsmanship award is awarded based on the input of the tournament's referees. Colton Grahovac of St. Paul's earned the individual sportsmanship award, the Jack Fordyce Award. Last year, St. Paul's earned the team sportsmanship award, the Mel Doering Sportsmanship Award. Andrew Whirret, athletic director, teacher, and a coach at St. Paul's, says the Bears have the right stuff. "I couldn't be more proud of how hard they've worked-not just on the court, but in the classroom. We have a group of kids who truly care about each other, and pick each other up. Even when one or two have the occasional struggles in the classroom, the others are willing to step up, help out, tutor, and hold each other accountable. They truly show what we've worked hard to instill in them, that these priorities matter, and in this order: God, family, school-and then comes basketball."
Other area teams invited and participating in this year's Tournament of Champions included the boys squads from Emmanuel-St. Michael (1-2) and Lutheran South Unity (2-2) and the girls teams from Holy Cross (2-2) and Emmanuel-St. Michael (1-2). This national tournament began 68 years ago in Cleveland as the Midwest Lutheran Basketball Tournament. The tournament was named the Lutheran Basketball Association of America in 1970, and the tourney been held in Valparaiso since 1971.