It may be a little early for NBA scouts to be looking, but family and friends were in abundance to watch and cheer on kids at the annual Elks "hoop shoot" free-throw contest held Saturday at the Kenai Recreation Center. More than 40 children participated in the morning playoff event.
Hoop shoot winners
Boys 8 to 9 -- Bo Reilly, North Star Elementary, first; Alan Hull, Mountain View Elementary, second; and Berg Garrett, Sears Elementary, third.
Boys 10 to 11 -- Samuel Taylor, North Star, first; Calvin Wilkin, Nikiski Elementary, second; and Matt Thompson, North Star, third.
Boys 12 to 13 -- Robin Davis, Kenai Boys and Girls Club, first; Mike Roche, North Star, second; and JD Hall, Nikiski Elementary, third.
Girls 8 to 9 -- Kinsey Martin, North Star, first; Brittany Tuttle, Nikiski Elementary, second; and Allie McGahan, Aurora Borealis Charter School, third.
Girls 10 to 11 -- Shawna McHood, Mountain View, first; Casey Coupchiak, North Star, second; and Abigail Chadwick, Aurora Borealis, third.
Even Michael Jordan would be envious of Casey Coupchiak vertical leap. Coupchiak, a student at North Star Elementary School, went on to place second in the 10 to 11 year old girls division.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Girls 12 to 13 -- Katie Foley, Kenai Middle School, first; and Donica Severson, Aurora Borealis, second.
"These kids are the champions from the schools in the area, but roughly 500-600 kids participated at the school level," said Dan Aaronson, secretary for Kenai Elks Club No. 2425,
Boys and girls were divided into three categories, based on their ages. The categories were for children ages 8 to 9, 10 to 11 and 12 to 13 years old. The contest began with five practice shots for each child, 10 free-throws for points, followed by an additional 15 more throws to total 25 possible baskets.
There were only a couple of rules: No bouncing a ball more than four times before each shot is taken and don't cross the free throw line until the ball comes into contact with the net, rim or glass.
"I was nervous at first," said Abigail Chadwick, a fourth-grader from Aurora Borealis Charter School, who also plays post and point guard on the school team. However, nervousness didn't get in the way of her taking third place in the 10- to 11-year-old girls division.
"I think I did pretty good," said Abigail's friend Allie McGahan after taking her shots. Allie took third in the 8- to 9-year-old girls division.
Alan "AJ" Hull looked more like "Dr. J" at the Elks "Hoop Shoot" Free Throw Contest at the Kenai Recreation Center on Saturday. He walked away with the second place trophy in the right to nine year old boys division.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
For many of the kids who did well, the accomplishment was two-fold. The reason being a lot of the schools in the area have eight-feet high nets which the kids practiced on, but the nets at the recreation center are 10-feet high.
"It was kind of a disadvantage to some of the kids," said Don Weller, a coach from Sears Elementary School who attended the event.
There were many more boys than girls in this year's event, but Elks member Travis Steinbeck said this is a little unusual because in years past it's been pretty even.
The turnout of girls may have been small, but the girls who did show up played exceptionally well.
Katie Foley, won first place in the 12- to 13-year-old girls division and also obtained the highest score of the day by making 16 of her 25 shots. Foley is an eighth-grader who plays post on the team at Kenai Middle School. She has won first place in past years as well, but hasn't made it to regionals yet.
"I hope this is the year," she said.
"It's a great contest," added Foley's mother, Kim. "The Elks are always really supportive of the kids."
The hoop shoot has been held annually for more than 29 years locally and has gone on for more than 31 years nationally. Many coaches and parents involved in the event remember entering the contest themselves when they were children.
Barb Sandahl was there with her grandson Alan Hull, but still remembers taking his mother to the event.
"She went on to regionals twice," Sandahl said referring to her daughter, Molly. "She still plays in the city league."
This lodge-level contest was the first in a series. There are 19 lodges in Alaska that will all hold contests and tally their results to determine state winners. The state winners will move on to compete in the regional semi-final contest and, then should they win again, will receive funding through Elks National to attend the national finals in Springfield, Mass., with a parent. The winners of the national finals will receive a $60,000 college scholarship and have their names inscribed on plaques in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
"It's a wonderful program for the kids," said Barbara Roland, who was there with her daughter Morgan Tschida. "She (Morgan) loves basketball and was really excited about coming."
The free-throw contest was followed by an awards ceremony and luncheon at the Elks lodge. All children received award certificates for making it to this level of competition along with a complimentary basketball. Trophies were handed out to the first, second and third place winners of all age categories.
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