By DAVID GREEN
Taylor Griffiths was just one shot better than the competition March 19 at the Elks Hoop Shoot semifinals in Angola, Ind., but that was good enough.
Her success there made her the winner of an expense-paid trip to Massachusetts to see if she can become the national champion.
She faced the state champions from Indiana and Michigan in the 12 and 13-year-old age group division and each of them hit 21 of 25 attempts. Taylor put 22 through the hoop.
Here’s how the competition works.
A participant is allowed to shoot up to five practice shots, followed by the first 10 competition shots.
“Then after we go through everyone, we have to get back up and shoot the last 15 with no practice shots,” Taylor explained. “I had to shoot first this time.”
She missed one of her first 10, which she found a little unsettling, and followed up with 13 good shots from the remaining 15 attempts.
At the Angola event, each of the six winners (three age groups, with a male and female winner in each) sank 22 of 25 attempts.
Taylor will face eight other regional winners at the national championship April 30 in Springfield, Mass. One of those eight scored a perfect 25 of 25. Other scores ranged from 16 to 23.
Ties are broken with a series of five additional shots, as many series as needed to produce a winner.
Taylor’s competitors’ home towns range from the big city of Miami, Fla., to the small town of Ozawkie, Kan., a community less than half the size of Fayette.
Taylor will travel with her parents—all expenses paid—for a get-acquainted reception and a visit to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield on April 29. The Hoop Shoot gets underway at 9:45 a.m. the next day at Western New England College.
An awards banquet is scheduled in the evening.
Taylor and her family do plenty of traveling in the area for her AAU basketball team, but this trip will be her first experience flying.
“I can’t wait,” she said. “It is going to be so exciting.”
Whether or not she emerges as the national champion, skill at the free throw line is taking this seventh grader far.
Finalists in the girls 12-13 age group
Great Lakes Region: Taylor Griffiths, Fayette, Ohio 22/25
Northwest Region: Mikayla Pivec, Lynwood, Wash. 20/25
Northwest Central Region: Leslie Hibl, Wahpeton, N.D. 16/25
West Region: Danielle Craft, El Dorado Hills, Calif. 20/25
Central Region: Karen Baker, Mexico, Mo. 21/25
West Central Region: Samantha Stallbaumer, Ozawkie, Kan. 21/25
North Central Region: Jenna Taylor, Creston, Iowa 23/25
Southeast Central Region: Kendal Cloninger, Dallas, N.C. 25/25
Southeast Region: Amanda Portal, Miami, Fla. 23/25