By Van Williams
Classic Media Director
Luke Lentfer grew up with the Alaska Airlines Classic in his bloodlines as his father Jeff was one of the tournament’s greatest players back in the early 1990s.
Luke cemented his own Classic legacy after leading the Grace Christian Grizzlies past the West Eagles 58-53 in a back-and-forth semifinal game played before a crowd of more than 2,500 at West High.
Lentfer had a hand in eight of his team’s final 11 points as Grace hung on to advance to the Classic title game for the first time and will face Heritage Christian of California on Saturday night.
The Grizzlies got there thanks to the Lentfer cousins, with Luke scoring a game-high 19 points and Sloan putting up a 17-point, 14-rebound double-double. Luke set up Sloan for a post bucket that put Grace ahead 54-51 and on the next possession finished off a pretty give-and-go with Kellen Jedlicka to make it 56-51 and put his team in the driver’s seat.
Grace (10-2) got all its scoring from four players, including a dozen from Jedlicka and 10 from Joshua Ivanoff. Ivanoff is a legendary name in the Alaska basketball community, and he lived up to his name, converting an and-1 in the first quarter and swishing a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter when the Grizzles struggled to get in gear.
Credit West. The Eagles (4-2) stood toe-to-toe with the Grizzlies in a first half that featured eight lead changes. Jedlicka at one point scored seven straight points as Grace built a 22-15 lead. The Eagles clawed back behind Duey Cook, Aarion Alexander and Boub Marial, who combined for 13 points in a second-quarter spurt that saw them take a 29-28 lead at halftime.
The final play of the half saw Marial fake a 3-pointer and drive all the way to the cup for the hoop and the harm. The three-point play came with just 1.2 seconds on the clock.
In the third quarter, West’s Willie Zamora went nuts. He hit back-to-back 3-pointers, fed Julius Adlawan for a two-handed dunk and then scored on a left-handed finish. It led to West taking a 40-34 lead.
That’s when the Lentfer boys took over. Sloan was strong in the post, with the 6-foot-7 senior using his size and skill to dominate play inside the paint. He bookended a 10-0 run, starting with an offensive putback and finishing off a layup on the other side.
When Jedlicka banked in a jumper, you started to think that maybe this was Grace’s night. Luke Lentfer made sure of that.
It had to be a good feeling for the reigning Class 3A player of the year. Last week, his cousin was named MVP of the Alaska Prep Shootout. Tonight, he led his team into the championship game of the Alaska Airlines Classic, a tournament that his dad Jeff still ranks fourth in tournament history with 39 rebounds in 1990 for the Service Cougars.
Jeff went on to play at Weber State and in 1995 was on the team that as a 14th seed beat Tom Izzo and Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Now his son will face a team in Saturday’s Classic title game that is stacked with college-ready stars that has the same David vs. Goliath feeling.
Grace 16 12 16 14 – 58
West 15 14 14 10 – 53
GRACE – Clarkson 0, Finch 0, Ivanoff 10, Binder 0, Stubbs 0, Kniegge 0, Jedlicka 12, Jackson 0, L. Lentfer 19, S. Lentfer 17.
WEST – Alexander 7, Cook 4, Zamora 12, Fritz 0, Laxa 2, Adlawan 9, Choul 6, Marial 13, Falealo 0.