In a state of euphoria

Another maroon and gold banner will soon drop in Immanuel Lutheran School’s gymnasium.

In the 2017 postseason, the Warriors’ eighth-grade boys basketball team has taken its game to another level — and teams inside and out of the state have taken notice.

On Sunday, for the third straight weekend, the Warriors took home a championship trophy.

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However, this title stands above the rest for ILS.

The Warriors defeated Lutheran South Unity (Fort Wayne) 45-39 in the finals to claim the Indiana Lutheran Schools Athletic Association State Championship at Concordia Lutheran High School in Ft. Wayne.

It’s the first time, in the tourney’s seven years of competition, that the Warriors emerged as the state champs.

“Nobody south of Fort Wayne had ever won it,” Warriors coach Jim Hoffman said. “It’s a pretty big deal for us. It is an honor to represent the school and bring back a state championship for the school.

After a first-round bye, the Warriors went 3-0 in bracket play.

They opened their play with a 43-20 victory against St. Peter’s (Ft. Wayne) followed by a 56-29 thumping over Holy Cross (Ft. Wayne) in the semifinals.

In the final game, the Warriors were led by 16 points from Jack Marskberry while Reid Kruse added 10.

Marksberry and Tyler Goecker were named to the All-Tournament team.

Goecker, a guard who has averaged near a double-double all season Hoffman said, was named the Most Valuable Player of the state tournament.

“I was a little nervous before the (final) game, but settled in once we started playing,” Goecker said. “We really played as a team. We pushed the ball up and down the court and were unselfish. It’s really nice to come off (Lutheran Invitational Tournament) to win state and bring another trophy to the school.”

The Warriors now own the State, LIT, Brownstown Central and St. James Crusader Classic tourney titles this season.

Hoffman said that the team is playing well on both ends of the floor.

“Even with the pace they play at, we only averaged five turnovers per game,” he said. “They don’t turn the ball over and we’re averaging about 55 points per game. Fundamentally, they just do the right things — and from that standpoint, it’s just really hard to guard them.

“We need to work on defense. It think we’re OK, but can improve. We only allow 31 or 32 points per game. They’re just solid across the board.”

With the state crown, the Warriors get an automatic bid into the Lutheran National Tournament, which will be played in Valparaiso from March 23 through March 26.

Last year, the Warriors finished third at state but still received an at-large bid to enter nationals.

“(State) is really nice because it gets us into Valpo,” Marksberry said. “It’s something that we’ve been striving for eight years. Our dream has finally came through.”

Hoffman said that winning state will help their chances of advancing in nationals.

“We will get a really good seed going up,” Hoffman said. “I think, with this team, we can really go a long way with our depth. We got final eight last year, which was a good accomplishment. We keep taking little steps forward, but these kids have the heart and desire to do it. With what I’ve seen the last two months, I think they have the ability to do it.

“They know we’re going to come up and play hard-nosed. We’re going to play hard and fast. In my 15th or 16th year of doing this, we’re known for that. It’s nice to have that reputation — any time we come it’s going to be competitive.”

All of the successes have been felt from top to bottom on the team.

“I’ve really seen camaraderie with these kids,” Hoffman said. “We’ve seen these 10 kids bond and mix together. They push each other and are happy for each other. A kid might not play, but is still happy because he’s part of the team. I think people have a hard time being team players sometimes, but this team is really good about it.”