Making the Shot: Knights of Columbus Free Throw Championship

Local winners move on to district contest

By Alison Rooney

For the 36th year in a row Dan Dillon read out the brief instructions to the athletes gathered together for the 2012 Knights of Columbus Free Throw Championship, held last Saturday, Jan. 28 at the Capuchin Youth and Family Ministries gymnasium.  “You get 15 shots, plus 3 practice shots. 10- and 11-year-olds can shoot from the 12-feet away green line, and the 12- to 14-year-olds need to stand behind the 15-feet away blue line.  Don’t go over the line, or your shot won’t be counted.”

The scene at the Capuchin gym

It was as simple as that for the group of boys and girls who gathered in this annual tradition, sponsored by Loretto Council #536.  Dillon, who has been at the helm of this event as chairman since 1976, then described the incremental levels to which the winners would advance, with the next round a district one, taking place at Most Precious

Blood School, 108 Ulster Avenue, in Wallkill on Feb. 18.  Should Philipstown shooters be successful there, they continue on to the regional level, to be played at Our Lady of Lourdes School on Feb. 25, followed by downstate, on March 17 and, finally to the State championship, which takes place in April.

And if you think a little place like Philipstown, despite its proud basketball tradition, couldn’t possibly produce anyone who would make States, think again — three have done it: Megan Ladue, 1995, age 13, 16/25; Krista Fleming, 2002, age 14, 18/25 and Ian Thom, who, at the age of 10, in the 2005 States, shot 25 for 25, and made all three of his practice shots too. Once the state winners are selected, their scores get compared to those from across the country and an “International Champion” is designated; Thom won this honor in 2005.

To win, one doesn’t always need to shoot so perfectly, as it all depends on who else is competing, on the day of the competition.  Dillon mentioned this to the competitors to boost their confidence before they stepped up to the line to shoot.  Most seemed focused, but relaxed, hopefully the best combination for guiding that orange ball into and through the net.

The competition went through the appointed rounds without distraction, and in the end, six boys and girls from Philipstown were named local champions:

  • Kyle Sussmeier won the 10-year-old boys’ bracket by making 11 out of 15 shots
  • Zoe Lyons-Davis shot 8 for 15 to take the 10-year-old girls’ bracket.
  • Brandon Twoguns won the 11-year-old boys’ bracket by shooting 7 out of 15
  • Saoirse Maguire shot 9 for 15 to take the 11-year-old girls’ bracket.
  • Seth Warren won the 12-year-old boys’ bracket by shooting 9 for 15. Warren was a repeat winner, having gone on to Districts last year.
  • Stephen Junjulas shot 9 for 15 to win the 13-year-old boys’ bracket.

All concentration, before their turns

These winners each will receive an engraved trophy, to be presented at the next round, from Loretto Council. Every athlete received a certificate of participation. Should any of the winners not be able to compete at the next round, the runner-up will take their place — “and we’ve had second go two times to Downstate,” noted Dillon.

At the presentation ceremony Dillon, after thanking all the boys and girls who competed, wondered why the numbers of participants have declined over the past few years.  He noted that just five years ago, 42 kids participated, while over the past few years there have been less than a dozen. “We’ve advertised, handed out flyers, sent out emails through the schools; I’m just not sure why.”

One of the boys present offered a suggestion: “You need a bunch of lights and a deejay!” Speaking with Philipstown.info afterwards Dillon reiterated his concerns, and felt it was largely due to the increased number of activities that all children seem to be taking part in nowadays.

Dan Dillon, event chairman for 36 years now.

Asked how Haldane seems to uphold such a proud basketball tradition, with excellence way beyond its small numbers, Dillon (whose daughter Tricia Dillon Kelly was a member of the 1989 State Championship team), said he thought it was because of familiarity and team bonding over years and years, “The kids play together for so many years, through CYO or Rec, that same group stays together.  In a small town like this you’re always playing together, and that helps a great deal.”


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