Swish: 5 take aim at state free-throw championship

  • Xavier Santiago, 12, of Millers Falls, sinks one of several baskets during the annual Montague Elks Lodge Hoop Shoot in the Turners Falls High School gym Saturday. Santiago made 20 of 25 shots, winning his age division and a spot inthe Jan. 11 district competition in Orange.<br/>Recorder/David Rainville

    Xavier Santiago, 12, of Millers Falls, sinks one of several baskets during the annual Montague Elks Lodge Hoop Shoot in the Turners Falls High School gym Saturday. Santiago made 20 of 25 shots, winning his age division and a spot inthe Jan. 11 district competition in Orange.
    Recorder/David Rainville

  • Xavier Santiago, 12, of Millers Falls, shoots one of several baskets during the annual Montague Elks Lodge Hoop Shoot in the Turners Falls High School gym Saturday. Santiago sunk 20 of 25 shots, winning his age division.<br/>Recorder/David Rainville

    Xavier Santiago, 12, of Millers Falls, shoots one of several baskets during the annual Montague Elks Lodge Hoop Shoot in the Turners Falls High School gym Saturday. Santiago sunk 20 of 25 shots, winning his age division.
    Recorder/David Rainville

  • Xavier Santiago, 12, of Millers Falls, sinks one of several baskets during the annual Montague Elks Lodge Hoop Shoot in the Turners Falls High School gym Saturday. Santiago made 20 of 25 shots, winning his age division and a spot inthe Jan. 11 district competition in Orange.<br/>Recorder/David Rainville
  • Xavier Santiago, 12, of Millers Falls, shoots one of several baskets during the annual Montague Elks Lodge Hoop Shoot in the Turners Falls High School gym Saturday. Santiago sunk 20 of 25 shots, winning his age division.<br/>Recorder/David Rainville

TURNERS FALLS — Five area youths won a chance to qualify for a state basketball tournament after winning a local basketball free-throw competition Saturday.

Xavier Santiago of Millers Falls won a spot in the upcoming Elks Club Hoop Shoot district finals. He won the district tournament two years ago, going on to the state championship.

“If I do as well as I did today, I think I could make it to the state championship again,” Santiago said Saturday. He won the 12-to 13-year-old division at the Montague Lodge of Elks’ Hoop Shoot in the Turners Falls High School gym.

“People were really good at the state championship last time,” he said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Santiago plays basketball on the Bement School team and also plays for the Turners Falls team in the Suburban League. He’s excited to go on to the Elks’ district hoop shoot in Orange on Jan. 11.

In each round, competitors take 10 free-throws, then get a break before their final 15 shots.

While Santiago netted 20 baskets in 25 shots, nobody in his age group sunk less than 50 percent of their throws.

In the 12-13 boys’ division, Kyle Dodge came in second with 18 baskets made and Jack Putala sunk 17 for third. Ryan Campbell got 15 baskets and Jake Sisson, Dom Carme and Anthony Peterson tied with 13 shots.

Jake Dodge will go on to district’s with 12 baskets, shooting alone in the 10- to 11-year-old boys’ division and Robbie Murphy will continue to compete, the sole boy in the 8- to 9-year-old class, sinking three shots.

Taylor Murphy won the girls’ 10- to 11-year-old category with seven shots made, and Kendra Campbell won the 8-to-9 age group with 15 baskets. Both were the only competitors in their divisions, and will move on to compete in Orange.

There were fewer competitors than usual this year, possibly because the event had been rescheduled due to weather.

“Usually we have 30 or 40 kids competing,” said lodge member John Putala. “It’s one of our bigger annual events.”

Elks lodges around the country participate in the competition. It includes five levels, with regional and national hoop shoots following the state tournament.

Putula said that, in the last six years, five kids have made it from the Montague hoop shoot through district and into the state competition.

They face some pretty tough competition at the state level.

“Some of those kids will shoot 25 for 25,” said Steve Dacyczyn, exalted ruler of the Montague lodge. “One of the tie-breakers went for four rounds (of five shots each) before somebody missed a shot.”

If any of the Montague winners make it all the way to the final round, they’ll find it even closer to home than the state tournament in Malden. The national competition will be held in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield from April 10 through 12.

The national winners each year earn a spot in basketball history, with their names engraved on plaques in the Hall of Fame.

The annual event has been held for longer than any of the members at Saturday’s Hoop Shoot can recall. The Elks’ national website lists winners all the way back to the 1972-1973 basketball season.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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