Lutheran Central girls team set for Valparaiso tournament


Four basketballs echoed throughout the gymnasium shortly after the school day wrapped up at Lutheran Central School in Brownstown.

It was time for practice for the eighth-grade girls basketball team, and each practice starts with a team prayer and then right into drills.

The team’s seven players assembled at center court and started with a drill that took them up and down the court, passing the ball to a teammate running down the lane and then shooting layups at each end.

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This wasn’t any ordinary practice for the Saints.

It was one of the last practices the team will have in the gymnasium before they head to Valparaiso for the Lutheran Basketball Association of America National Tournament, where 64 boys and girls teams from across the country will compete.

The tournament will go from March 22-25.

It’s the first time any Lutheran Central team has been accepted into the tournament, which many Lutheran schools across the nation consider the premier basketball tournament.

“It was definitely their goal this year to make it,” said Beth Shelton, the coach that has guided the team for five seasons. “This was something the girls wanted to work for all year.”

Principal Jon Sprengel said the team should be proud to make the tournament, and the whole school and community are excited for them.

“Any time you are the first group at a school to accomplish something, that is a tremendous honor,” he said. “As a school, we are very excited for this year’s eighth-grade girls basketball team and the opportunity they have to represent our school and community at the national tournament.”

He said it also is something they will take with them wherever they go.

“This is a great opportunity for our students to participate against other Lutheran schools from around the country, and it is an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives,” he said.

The team is small in stature, and the roster is small, but it’s no comparison for the team’s will to win, Shelton said.

“We don’t have a ton of size, but we have determined players and players that are fundamentally sound,” she said. “They have a drive and will to win and will to find a way to win, even when we’re outsized and even though we have seven players and have to face these big schools.”

Teams apply for the tournament and are selected based on previous tournament success and season record.

This season, the Saints won the Lutheran Invitational Tournament and placed third at the Lutheran State Tournament. They currently boast a season record of 27-2.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for our team, and it’s pretty good since this is the first time anyone from LC has gone to nationals,” said Maddy Hackman, a seventh-grader that fills out the roster. “It feels good, and I think we’ve achieved it through hard work in practice and winning our games.”

Hackman said the team also is successful because of chemistry. The team has played together since the second grade, and the girls have known each other since kindergarten.

“We’re like a family here,” she said. “It’s really strong teamwork, and they’re just really fun to play with.”

Teammate Addie Shelton agreed and added knowing each other for so long is an asset.

“I love all the girls,” she said. “Since we’ve been together so long, we know each other really well, and it’s a good thing.”

Addie said she looks forward to the competition and playing the games during the tournament. She’s also looking forward to the experience.

“I’ve never seen the opening ceremony, so I’m looking forward to that because I’ve heard it’s pretty cool,” she said. “My whole family is coming up to see, and that’s pretty cool.”

That’s exactly what Beth Shelton wants her team to do: Soak up the moment and enjoy it.

“I want to be successful and everything, but more than anything, I want them to go and absorb the experience and the faith driver behind it,” she said. “I want them to have fun and win along the way.”

Hackman said she looks forward to the experience the tournament will bring, but one thing would make the experience much sweeter.

“I want to get into the championship,” she said.

That competitive spirit may be just enough to carry the team, and Beth Shelton plans to share the message of working hard, staying mentally tough and having fun.

“Everyone is going to go out there and make mistakes, but let that mistake go and don’t let that one mistake turn into 10,” she said. “Stay positive, go out there and have fun, and I will be proud of them.”

After practice, it was time for another prayer. This small team seems ready for the big stage.

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