Luther North denies Westminster Christian championship

By Scott Miller
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 11/26/2016 11:18 PM

In the end there was just no stopping Luther North, which spent most of the week dominating the competition at Westminster Christian's 10th Annual Boys Thanksgiving Tournament, winning by an average of just over 26 points in its first 3 games.

While that was not the case in the first half of the championship game against the host Warriors on Saturday the second half was another story.


Westminster led 20-19 at halftime, but Luther North turned up the pressure in the second half and pulled away for a 57-43 win to capture the title.

Luther North, which came out in a full-court press, scored the first 6 points of the second half to grab a 25-20 lead. The Wildcats later broke the game open with a 12-0 run to close out the third quarter ahead 42-27. Westminster turned the ball over 9 times in the pivotal third quarter.

"In the first half we were able to slow the game down and dictate the tempo," Westminster coach Andy Zielinski said. "But we knew they were going to try to change that in the second half. We had a hard time handling their pressure. We did everything we could to get the kids in the right spot and the kids were doing everything they could, but hand it to Luther North. They are just really good. They are so fast that there is not a moment to relax bringing the ball up. We kind of lost our composure for a stretch and they were able to pull away on us."

Westminster could get no closer than 12 points in the fourth quarter. Luther North had 3 players named to the all-tournament team, including the tournament's most outstanding player James Owens, who had 13 points against the Warriors.

The loss for the Warriors doesn't overshadow an overall successful tournament that saw them finish 3-1 with some real bright spots especially in the play of Caleb Thomas and Ben Versluys, who were both named to the all-tournament team.

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"We are not real deep this year, but the upperclassmen showed they really play well together," Zielinski said. "I think Ben Versluys has taken his game to the next level. Caleb Thomas was probably the biggest surprise. He was a guy who averaged around 10 minutes a game last year, but he has put in a tremendous amount of work in the offseason. Now I can't take him off the floor."

Versluys finished the tournament with a team-high 67 points in the 4 games combined. Thomas was right behind him with 53, including a game-high 14 on Saturday.

"As soon as the season ended last year I got in the gym and started working on my game," Thomas said. "I knew with some of the guys leaving from last year there were going to be opportunities for people to step up and take those spots and I wanted to make the most of it. I really worked the most on my shooting and it is making a difference."

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