Since 1972, local Knights of Columbus councils have sponsored the Knights of Columbus International Free Throw Championship for girls and boys between the ages of 9 and 14. Contestants compete within their own gender and age group and local winners move on to the district, regional, and state or provincial levels. From there, some make it to the international level for championship competition in their group.
The St. Joseph Council Knights of Columbus Council 10627 in High Bridge has sponsored the local event since 1992 and consider it one of their best service opportunities to assist youth. Several years ago, at the suggestion of the council Youth Director Christopher Denis of Lebanon Township, they partnered with High Bridge Youth Basketball (HBYB) to increase opportunities for youths to participate. Last year, they expanded the program to include the Lebanon Township Athletic Association (LTAA). These partnerships have resulted in the council’s tournament having one of the greatest number of participants in the area.
This year, local competition was conducted over a two week period at HBYB and LTAA practices, resulting in a participation increase to 140 contestants in 12 brackets. Each contestant was allowed 15 free throw attempts in the contests. An additional competition was held to conduct final tie breaker ‘shootouts’ for the highest scorers in the HBYB and LTAA programs. Shootouts were needed in 7 of the 12 brackets!
Twelve girls and boys from High Bridge, Lebanon Township and the surrounding area emerged as local champions for 2017. Nine-year-old champions were Christina Sullivan (LTAA) in the girls’ bracket and Jailen Patel (HBYB) in the boys’ bracket. Ten-year old champions were Amanda Markey (HBYB) and Eli Hanley (LTAA). Eleven- year old champions were Kate Glass (LTAA) and Ian Carlson (HBYB). In the 12-year old brackets, champions were Mckenzie Miller (LTAA) and Joey Avallone (LTAA). The 13-year-old girls’ bracket was won by Brooke Solomon (LTAA) with Eric Axelsen (LTAA) winning the boys’ bracket. Fourteen-year old champions were Noelle Gabrish (LTAA) and Oliver Haik (HBYB).
Each of these winners will advance to the Knights’ district competition to be held at the Immaculate Conception School in Annandale, with an eye toward moving on to the state and international levels.
Front row (L-R): Champions Christina Sullivan (yellow uniform), Jailen Patel, Ian Carlson, Joey Avallone (holding the ball) and Amanda Markey (yellow shirt). Middle Row (L-R): Eric Axelsen (thumbs up), Eli Hanley Mckenzie Miller (looking left) and Kate Glass. Back row (L-R): Knights Youth Director Chris Denis, James McCloskey, 14-year old champions Noelle Gabrish and Oliver Haik, Knights Brian Loughney, Dave Corrado, Tom Corrado and James Simila. (Not present: Brooke Solomon) (Greg Boyle Photo)