Originally published on Alameda Patch.

As a child, Patrick Russi shot baskets in the Elks’ Hoop Shoot. Now, as an Alameda Recreation and Park Department supervisor, he helps organize it.

When he was young, says Russi, the tournament crowds were larger, the camaraderie was stronger, and winners earned “citywide bragging rights.”

While the Hoop Shoot may be smaller now, Friday night’s 38th annual contest at the Alameda Point Gym drew dozens of kids who showed off their free throw shooting skills.

Elks Lodge #1015, the local chapter of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, hosted the Alameda contest.

Entrants try to score as many free throw shots as as possible in 25 attempts. Citywide trials took place in December, and the competitors in Friday’s contest vied for a chance to represent Alameda in the next stage of the competition.

Contestants in six age and gender categories won that right. The Elks Lodge will pay the  local winners’ expenses when they compete in the Bay Area finals in San Mateo. Here’s the breakdown:

Victoria Morin Girls Ages 12-13 14 scored
Daniel Ratto Boys Ages 12-13 19 scored
Stephanie Fong Girls Ages 10-11 12 scored
Bryan Woo Boys Ages 10-11 20 scored
Sophie Nilsson Girls Ages 8-9 19 scored
Lassel Rose Jr. Boys Ages 8-9 14 scored

A regional competition in Fresno follows the Bay Area finals, said Hoop Shoot coordinator Lil Arnerich. Regional winners go on to a West Coast contest in Las Vegas before the national showdown in New York.

“You really got to be cooking” to make it to nationals, Arnerich said. The only Alameda competitor so far to reach the national finals was his own grandson, Ken Arnerich. To date, no girl from Alameda has made it past the regionals.

To be competitive on a national level, shooters need to be making at least 23 out of 25 shots, Arnerich said. Many of those finals traditionally come from the Midwest or South.

John Pardo was proud of his son Aeneas, 9,  who won third place in his division Friday night. “He gave it 100 percent,” Padro said.

Aeneas said he had fun and wants to compete again next year.

For Stephanie Fong, tops in the girls’ 10–11 bracket, this was her third Hoops Shoot win. Her parents, Jennifer and William Fong, were pleased.

“I support her whatever she wants,” Jennifer Fong said. “She likes it, so we come back.”