A basketball circled the rim Saturday at Ellsworth Elementary and teetered on the edge before finally falling into the net for a point. The next shot ricocheted off the rim, struck the roof covering the hoops and sank in for another point.
After 25 free throws, 12-year-old Gavin Dumas had scored 18 points — the most of the day so far at the Vancouver Elks’ Hoop Shoot kids’ free throw competition.
A more than 50-year tradition of Elks Lodge chapters across the country, the local Hoop Shoot returned, hosted by the Vancouver Elks 823, after two years of cancellations due to COVID-19. Organizer and lodge officer Benito Tijerina said that even last year, the Elks couldn’t find anywhere that would let them host the contest. It was disappointing to have to call families who had been regular participants and tell them it wasn’t happening, he said.
But they weren’t going to let the annual event, which is free to kids ages 8 through 13, die, and Tijerina was excited to break out the prize basketballs again this year. He said the competition promotes grit in kids and encourages them to develop the mental toughness it takes to sink free throw after free throw.
“It takes discipline, you know. When you miss one, it’s hard to get back on track,” Tijerina said. “You’re competing with yourself.”
Dumas knew what he was doing as he took his stance behind the free-throw line, cocked back and hucked the ball for the hoop. He’s quite the athlete, playing basketball, football and baseball.
He was in good company. Ten-year-old Cadence Handy sought to earn a return trip to the national contest after qualifying last year for the title tournament in Chicago. She was a little disappointed in her nine points Saturday but said the cold weather got to her.
Cadence and her mom, Brooke Handy, traveled to Vancouver from Kelso for the Hoop Shoot contest because they’ll be out of town during their local contest.
But her brother, Camden, 8, scored an impressive 10 points. He said he hopes to follow in his sister’s footsteps and qualify to advance to the next level.
Camden and Cadence’s dad, Jeff Handy, said they didn’t know what to expect last year when Cadence qualified for the national tournament but that it was a great experience with a “welcoming group of people.”
Al Schmeits has been involved with the Elks’ Hoop Shoots for decades, since his four boys participated each year as kids. He said the contest teaches kids competitiveness and gets them active with basketball.
Trevor Turnbow, 10, made his Hoop Shoot debut with three points. His mother, Michelle Turnbow, said they practiced by playing pig on the hoop at their house.
She thought this was a fun event to get them out of the house on Saturday and be active. She said her son’s height makes him well suited for a future as a basketball player. They found out about the contest after going to the Elks’ haunted house last month.
After an involuntary hiatus, Tijerina said, he’s hoping to spread the word that the Hoop Shoot is back.
“It’s for the kids,” Tijerina said.