The Homers Elks Lodge held its 2023-2024 Hoop Shoot at the Homer High School gym last Saturday morning. The free-throw contest for ages 8-13 has engaged youths interested in participating in national basketball competition since 1972.
Seven participants entered the local Homer contest this year. There are a total of six divisions for each age group in the competition. One winner from each bracketed age group — ages 8-9, 10-11, and 12-13 — is eligible to advance and compete in the national contest.
The winner for the girls division for ages 10-11 was Dottie Slyce. There were no participants in the girls division at ages 8-9 or ages 12-13.
The winner for the boys division ages 8-9 was Max Fefolov. Next was the winner for the boys division ages 10-11, Dylan Waltenbough. The final winner in the boys division was Andrew Marley at ages 12-13.
There would typically be local winners for each age group for both boys and girls divisions that go on to represent their respective ages, like the missing 8-9 and 12-13 divisions for girls. However, due to low turnout this year, those divisions remain uncrowned for the Homer area.
“The pandemic stifled the competition for a couple of years but we are now focused on revitalizing it and would really like to see more participation next year,” Heath Smith, Elks Lodge member and Hoop Shoot Director, said in an email on Sunday.
”I would love to see 40 kids out there!”
This is Smith’s first year as director for the Homer regional contest and only second as an Elks member. He commends the appeal of friendly competition for young potential athletes as an integral reason to get involved.
“Anytime we can provide opportunities for our youth to cultivate and grow personally then the community wins as a whole. Athletics and physical activity have been shown to be great motivators in the lives of many of our children,” Smith said.
He also credits the rewarding work that Lodge does in the community for veterans as a defining reason for staying involved in the organization. The Lodge provides diverse resources for veterans through extensive grants and volunteer services.
“So long as there are veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget them,” a statement from the Lodge’s official website reads.
The first set of winners from the Homer district level will have their results compared to other district winners from across the state to determine the regional contest early next year. Following the regional contest, regional winners are qualified to compete in the national competition later that year.
The six division winners of the national competition receive a permanent plaque in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, a tradition since 1975. Travel costs and accommodations are handled by the Lodge for the participating district, regional and national winners and one parent/guardian.
Despite the limited turnout, Smith expressed that it was great to have the tradition of the Hoop Shoot. He mentioned how enriching it was when a mother who had previously competed and won three District titles in a row in her youth brought in two of her own kids to participate in the local contest.
2024 Local Homer Elks Hoop Shoot Champions
(if there is not an age group listed there were no participants):
Dottie Sylce; girls division champion age 10-11
Max Fefolov; boys division champion age 8-9
Dylan Waltenbough; boys division champion age 10-11
Andrew Marley; boys division champion age 12-13