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Pacific Lutheran hoops making history and a difference

It's been a special run for a team that won its first conference title in 36 years.

PARKLAND, Wash — The PLU men's basketball clinched their first conference regular-season title since 1986 and are now getting ready for the playoffs.

It's been all smiles for Seth Hall this season.

The PLU senior leads the Lutes in scoring, averaging over 20 points a game.  

"This is the best team I've been a part of. We have each other's back, everyone has a common goal. One of the things we said this year was, accomplish the mission and be a great teammate," said Seth Hall. 

Hall said fellow senior Jordan Thomas is the ultimate teammate. 

"The guy leads our team in assists, rebounds, blocks, and steals, he does it all for us," said Hall.

Thomas has scored over a thousand points as a Lute. He's playing the best of his career but getting to this point wasn't easy.

"When COVID hit my sophomore year, the time after that, I was at a very bad point of my life, and he stuck with me through it," Thomas said of Head Coach Chad Murray. "He's been by my side through the toughest times."

Thomas was raised in a single-parent household, so Murray is not only a coach but also a father figure.

"Each kid needs something different from their coach. Some just need just a basketball coach, while others like Jordan may need something else, like mentoring in their life, personal guidance, a father figure. I just want to fulfill needs," said Murray.

Sometimes that stretches beyond his roster.

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"I've come to a lot of the games and practices," said honorary team member 13-year-old Zach Heckinger.

"He's a guy you want to do it for, you want to do it for him, he's a good kid and loves basketball," said Hall.

"Every time I see him, he just puts things into perspective," said Thomas.

Through Team Impact, a non-profit organization that matches children with serious or chronic illnesses with college teams, Heckinger formed a bond with the Lutes.

Heckinger helps with team activities, practices and games.

"He's just so grateful for everything he has, and when you see that from someone in a position like his, it's inspiring," said Thomas.

Heckinger was born with Spina Bifida. 

"I can't use my legs all the way," said Heckinger.

But that hasn't slowed him down. 

"I play basketball, baseball, and I'm learning how to play tennis," said Heckinger.

"I always want our guys to be grateful for what we have. The simple fact that we can walk without much effort is something we don't really think about a lot and when you see Zach and how much effort it takes just to get through a day, I think you see what true toughness is. We're not tough, he's tough. He is inspirational to me," said Murray.

It's a special bond and a special run for a team that won its first conference title in 36 years.