Good shooting, sportsmanship on display at free throw contest


PORTSMOUTH — Alex Soler certainly had enough signed basketballs to spare, but that didn’t detract from his classy move on Saturday.

The 14-year-old, for the third year in a row, was crowned the overall boys’ winner in the Knights of Columbus Free Throw Championship at the Bradley School gym behind St. Anthony's Church.

Showing impeccable form from 15 feet away, Alex sank 14 shots out of 15 attempts.

But after collecting the grand prize — a ball signed by members of the University of Rhode Island’s men’s basketball team — Alex walked over to little Andrew Williams and handed it to him.

The 9-year-old, who didn’t win in his category but still managed to put six balls through the hoop while shooting underhand, beamed.

“Thank you,” he told Alex.

“I don’t know,” said Alex when asked later why he gave up his prize. “It felt kind of good.”

The annual contest, which invites boys and girls ages 9 to 14 to show off their shooting skills from the foul line, is hosted by the Knights’ Father Christopher S. Rooney Council 3618 in Portsmouth.

This year’s turnout — 17 kids — was the highest ever, according to Richard Brown, grand knight for the Knights of Columbus, which has been hosting the event for the past decade.

The two overall winners — Alex and Jillian Lunney, 11 — received  signed balls from the URI men’s and women’s basketball teams, respectively. The leading shooters in each age category received a medal and everyone else got a certificate of participation.

Alex and Jillian will go on to compete in the state championship in March at Bishop Hendricken High School, said Mr. Brown.

Alex, who also happens to be the two-time defending state free throw champion, plays on the Portsmouth High School boys’ freshmen team.

Does he practice his free throws?

“No, I just come out and shoot,” he said.

And the winners are ...

Here are the full results from Saturday’s contest:

Girls, age 9: Jiana Suanders, council champion

Girls, age 10: Anna Conheeny, council champion

Girls, age 11: Jillian Lunney, council champion and overall girls’ winner

Girls, age 13: Magdalena Tabak, council champion; Stephanie Soler, participant

There were no female contestants in the age 12 and 14 categories.

Boys, age 9: Carson Conheeny, council champion; John Hurd, Kevin Sullivan and Andrew Williams, participants

Boys age, 10: Chris Hemenway, council champion

Boys, age 11: T.J. Bettencourt, council champion; Justin Parsons, Danny Sullivan and Jarlyn Soler, participants

Boys, age 12: Toby Foltz, council champion

Boys, age 13: Austin Gibbs, council champion

Boys, age 14: Alex Soler, council champion and overall boys’ winner

View a gallery of photos from the competition below.


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.