Standing at the free throw line Saturday, fifth-grader Tracy Harris Jr. epitomized calm and collected.
Catch, dribble, shoot. Swoosh. Catch, dribble, shoot. Swoosh.
Harris was one of 32 basketball players from Pierce, King and Thurston counties who spent the morning at Mount Tahoma High School shooting free throws in a district level competition hosted by Tacoma Elks Lodge 174.
He was one of six players to advance to the state level of the Elks National Hoop Shoot Free Throw Program. That competition is Feb. 20 at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey.
Top shooters from the state competition go to the regional competition in Vancouver, Washington, and from there the national competition in Chicago in April. One boy and one girl will win a national title and have their names added to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
I think I was more nervous than he was.”
Tracy Harris Sr., father of 10-year-old basketball player Tracy Harris Jr.
Boys and girls compete in three age groups: 8-9 years, 10-11 years and 12-13 years. Participants make it to the district competition various ways.
In Lakewood, the lodge partners with the Clover Park School District, and students compete in physical education classes.
Tacoma Lodge 174 partners with the Boys & Girls Club.
As shooters stepped to the line Saturday, there were some air balls and clinks off the rim. Some balls spun in and out, while others made the sweet “swoosh” sound of a perfect shot.
Like Harris, Chloe Furnstahl looked like a seasoned professional at the line.
In her third year participating, the 12-year-old showed practice pays off.
The middle school student made 21 free throws — the most of anyone Saturday. At one point she made 14 in a row.
“Out of 25 free throws, I usually hope to get 20 or 21,” the Lake Tapps resident said.
Furnstahl and Harris practice shooting two to three days a week. Harris typically shoots between 125 and 150; Furnstahl 200.
“I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing because it’s working,” Furnstahl said of how she’ll prepare for state.
Harris, who is from Spanaway, was the top shooter from his Beachwood Elementary School on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Physical education teacher Angela Howard cheered from the bleachers Saturday.
I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing because it’s working.”
Chloe Furnstahl, 12 , Lake Tapps basketball player
“He’s competitive and he’s serious about the sport, but he’s got such a good spirit,” Howard said. “He’s calm, cool and knows how to win gracefully.”
Harris demonstrated just how cool he could be when he had to face not one but two tie-breakers.
It was a replay for the 10-year-old who missed a tie-breaker shot last year.
“Once we got to the tie I was a little nervous,” he admitted.
Harris was first up. He stepped to the line and made four in a row. He missed his fifth basket. Then he had to wait.
His competitor missed his first shot, bringing Harris some relief, but went on to make the next four.
Time for the second tie-breaker.
This time Harris’ muscle memory took over.
“Once I hit my rhythm, I knew I had it,” he said.
He nailed all five shots. His competitor did not.
“I think I was more nervous than he was,” dad Tracy Harris Sr. said.
Regardless how far they make it, Tacoma Elks member Mario Marsillo said the purpose of the event is to bolster confidence and reward hard work.
“We want kids to have fun,” Marsillo said. “We want them to get the feel of competition but do it in a fun way.”
Basketball players to compete Feb. 20 at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey (alternates go in their place if they can’t attend):
Group: 8-9 years old
Girls: Zoe Diener of Puyallup (alternate Adrianne Tupolo of Belfair).
Boys: Jake Dillon of Tumwater (alternate Deidrick McCray of Lakewood).
Group: 10-11 years old
Girls: Saylar Barrett of Tacoma (alternate Kaylin Koval of Olympia).
Boys: Tracy Harris, Jr. of Spanaway (alternate Andrew Mattson of Issaquah).
Group: 12-13 years old
Girls: Chloe Furnstahl of Lake Tapps (alternate Violet Smith of Puyallup).
Boys: Brandon Lankford of Sammamish (alternate Curtis Carter of Fircrest).