Last of the best
Alumni Matt Wincherauk looks back at the historic tournament
Article: Matt Wincherauk – Contributor
From Feb. 13-15, 2014, the 62nd Annual Luther Invitational Tournament took place. The final LIT games were played in the old Luther gym, now called the Merles Belsher Heritage Centre, ending a historic run of great basketball and school spirit in that venue. They might be moving into the state of the art Semple gymnasium, but many things will stay the same about this fantastic tournament.
LIT is an annual event that I never miss, even if it means pushing back family vacations to tropical places and braving minus 40-degree weather. Being an alumnus, I was a part of four LITs and was fortunate enough to play in two tournaments. There is nothing like the feeling of playing in front of almost one thousand passionate fans, packed into that cramped gym. Luther College High School is in the process of building a brand new gym, located directly behind the old one. Tours were available over the LIT weekend, and it looks fantastic. With capacity for over one thousand people, a new media station that doesn’t involve climbing up scaffolding, and new weight and locker rooms, the new gym will provide a new look for the tournament.
As impressive as the new gym will be, it will never capture the same atmosphere as the old gym. Part of the charm of LIT is that the players and the crowd experience the energy and excitement of the game together. The bleachers are right up against the sideline and the team benches form part of bleachers, with alumni sitting right behind the Luther team offering “words of wisdom” and support. LIT traditions run deep, whether it’s the collective “SWOOSH!” following a successful Luther free throw or singing Time Warp between the third and fourth quarters, and no doubt these will carry on into the new gym. Most important is the attitude of the tournament – LIT has always valued great sportsmanship from not only the players, but also the fans, and this year was no exception. Sportsmanship was also on display during the annual Luther Alumni game, despite the lopsided result that I will not mention here.
Of course, the teams involved did not disappoint, as they put forth a great display of high school basketball. I was lucky enough to provide the commentary of the finals on Access 7 with my good friend and Regina Thunder quarterback, Spencer Mack. The Winnipeg based Garden City Gophers took home the LIT Championship in a wild final game versus Regina’s LeBoldus Golden Suns. It was a classic LIT final that showcased the players’ skills and tested both teams. As for the Luther Lions, while they did not win the championship, they gave their rabid fans three hard fought games and were excellent ambassadors for the tournament.
The Luther Invitational Tournament will always be a special event because of its longstanding traditions and the great effort put forward each year from the students, faculty, and staff. As it moves into a new venue, LIT will remain a must-see event in Regina and will continue to draw the best competition from across Western Canada. New gym or old gym, the Luther Invitational Tournament will continue to be a special blend of student and community participation that will last for many years to come. Hope to see you all at the 63rd annual LIT.