Immanuel Lutheran boys seeking national championship

Immanuel Lutheran School’s eighth-grade boys basketball team plans on adding another banner to its gymnasium walls this spring.

They added a state title to the history books last year but have bigger plans this time around.

The Warriors return to the Lutheran Basketball Association of America’s National Tournament at Valparaiso University this week.

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Immanuel rolled through the regular season, going 29-2, before winning the 10-team Lutheran Invitational Tournament at Trinity Lutheran High School against St. Peter’s (Columbus). They also won the Luhi, Danville and Seymour invitationals.

The Warriors went to the state tournament shorthanded, missing a handful of players due to injury and illness, but were able to claim third place in the draw.

“We fought through a broken collarbone and five or six kids being sick,” Warriors coach Jim Hoffman said. “We’re healthier now, and we’re hoping it’s over. We’re playing really well. I like our odds. I think we’re back to where we should be.”

The Warriors — currently standing at 31-3 — return a wealth of experience to this year’s tournament with a roster made up of eight eighth-graders and one seventh-grader going to nationals.

“We have some great leadership,” Hoffman said. “We have kids that have experience from last year. I think that will be a big thing for us. Those boys know what to expect.”

This year’s group at Immanuel has put up impressive numbers.

“They score a lot of points,” Hoffman said. “We average about 54 points for a game. They’ve hit 179 3-pointers this year and are shooting 40 percent from 3 and 50 percent from 2. As a team, we’re 67 percent shooting from the free-throw line, which is outstanding in middle school.

“We have been a great defensive team this year, too, allowing 29 points per game,” he said. “That has been a key for us. We have only had three losses this year. Defensively, we can lock them down and switch up some defenses. We have some kids with very high basketball IQ, which is big for us.”

Warriors eighth-grader Sam Friend is looking forward to the competition.

“It’s just fun to go up there. Usually, we play well up there,” he said. “We’ve been practicing really hard. Our fast break has worked really well as well as our motion (offense).”

The Warriors haven’t played in a game in about three weeks and are anxious to get back to it.

“We’ve been perfecting what we’ve been doing through the season,” Warriors eighth-grader Conner Sims said. “We’re going to need to play a lot of defense to win it.”

The past three years, the Warriors have finished in the final eight at nationals.

At last year’s tournament the Warriors lost a heartbreaker. St. Michael’s Lutheran of Fort Myers, Florida, beat Immanuel 40-39 on a buzzer-beater in the second round of the tournament.

St. Michael’s went on to win the tournament with ease, defeating every team by nine points or more en route to the championship.

“We’ve been right there,” Hoffman said. “I think this is the year that we have the personnel in place. We aren’t quite as deep as we were last year, but I think that everyone knows their role.”

The tournament will run Thursday through Sunday, and brackets can be found online at

Immanuel will open against St. Marcus Lutheran of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at 4:25 p.m. Friday.