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LIT: an experience like no other

“SWOOSH!”/Jayden Dreher
“SWOOSH!”/Jayden Dreher

After 63 years, doing the timewarp dance seems appropriate

When it comes to Regina, we have some fun and longstanding traditions. Labour Day Classic, Mosaic, Cathedral Arts Festival, and the Dragon Boat Festival all come to mind. However, in my opinion, one trumps them all, and that’s the Luther Invitational Tournament.

Taking place every February before our Reading Week break, LIT has become a fixture not only in the sports community, but in the Regina community as a whole as well. Whether you come for the top-notch basketball, the wild art done by the students, or just the overall atmosphere presented by the event, everyone has a reason to go to LIT.

LIT has now gone on strong for 63 years, and despite the fact that it took place in the brand new Semple Gymnasium instead of the classic Merlis Belcher Heritage Centre, the atmosphere and overall feel of the tournament has not changed a bit. Well maybe a little bit. I can’t say that I miss the incredibly uncomfortable bleachers, the way the old gym seemingly got to temperatures you’d find in a sauna, and tripping over the feet of players as you tried to find your way back to your seat walking from the concession stand. The new gym doesn’t have the exact feel as the old gym, but it brings so much more to the stage, and allows the wonderful students and organizers to do so much more with all the space and lighting that they have. They still do the “SWOOSH!” for free throws. They still do the timewarp during the Luther games, and they still know how to make show the same wild passion, mixed with respect for the players, coaches and referees.

One of the great new traditions that they added in my senior year of 2012 was the girl’s challenge cup game, allowing the senior girls players to experience something that most of them had a huge hand in putting together. They even won their first challenge cup over the LeBoldus Golden Suns in a nail biter, 50-47. I’d love to see this expand into a tournament of its own, and showcase the best girl’s basketball in the city, and this province.

Matt Wincherauk talked about the last Luther Invitational Tournament last year, back when he was a contributor! Has the tournament changed as much as he originally thought?

LIT has become a part of my life now, doing my best to stay from the very first game Thursday afternoon, to the championship game Saturday night. For over ten years now, I’ve attended nearly every LIT game. Starting as a young elementary school kid hoping one day to play in this tournament, to a student at Luther fulfilling a dream at the 59th and 60th LITs from 2011-2012, to an alumni three years later, I’ve been able to watch this tournament grow and become better every year. Talking to old teachers like Troy Casper, the tournament coordinator, they note how important it is for the alumni to come back and contribute to the tournament. Some of us stay involved by filming and photographing the tournament, the legendary Colby Burwell still announces, and now I’ve been lucky enough to call four LIT games, including the last two championship games, with former U of R great, Drew Hunter, and brother Adam, who now works for CBC Saskatchewan.

Even the LIT alumni game has become a big part of the excitement for me. Yes, I’m incredibly out of shape and winded after the first couple of minutes, and yes, I don’t exactly have the same level of talent that I did back in high school, but goddamn it is a lot of fun. Competing with big names like Patrick Neufeld, formerly of the Riders, and other former Luther Lion greats like Mitch Jones of the 2010 city championship team, we might not exactly represent the peak of physical fitness, but it’s so much fun, and it shows the value that Luther puts into its alumni.

As for the actual competition, what can you say? It’s fantastic, like, every year, featuring some wicked dunks, incredible shots, and phenomenal performances. However, this year’s most memorable play might be one of the most infamous in tournament history, when Lethbridge College Institute player Erik Lewis actually tore off the rim while attempting a dunk during the Saturday night social event. However, not even a disaster like that could slow down the LIT crew, as they worked into the early morning hours (not unlike many of the Carillon staff on production night) taking a basket from the old gym, and managed to get it ready the next morning for the alumni game. So in a way, the new gym has a bit of the magic from the old gym, which is fitting seeing all the history that has taken place there.

The final game was a rematch of the 62nd championship game, featuring the LeBoldus Golden Suns of Regina, and the Garden City Gophers of Winnipeg. Last year, the Gophers won, so it was only right that the Suns gained a measure of revenge by taking home the 63rd championship trophy. Led by All-Star Carter Miller and tournament MVP Chan De Ciman, the Suns brought home their first LIT trophy in their schools long history of basketball greatness, with a final score of 87-58.

Finally, we had the video package put together by the great film students of Luther, and grand maestro of everything digital, film teacher Jay Willimott. A culmination of everything that was put into this phenomenal tournament, including the famous blitz nights, a mad dash to finish the amazing art of LIT, and hang all the banners from this year’s current teams and the previous 62 winners. Then came the highlights, the passion displayed by the players, and the wild frenzy of the fans when a big play would happen. And just like that, it all ended for another year. The banners and art will come down, and things will go back to normal for the students and teachers of Luther. However, there’s always the incredible excitement at the end, looking forward to the next tournament.

They may change venues, players and teachers will come and go, but one thing will always remain a constant for LIT. The same passion will always remain in this tournament, from the organizers, to the students, to the players and the fans. See you next year at the 64th annual L! I! T!

About Matt Wincherauk