The 32nd annual Elizabethtown Hot Shots Basketball Shooting Contest, for all fifth graders in the school district, concluded with a trophy presentation, during the varsity boys basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 20. Barbara Shenk, physical education teacher, started the Hot Shots program during her first year as an educator. The tournament has been held consecutively every year since.
“This program provides an outside-of-the-classroom experience to make connections between teachers and students with the community,” Shenk said about the purpose of the contest. This year’s winners were Jacqueline Raybold and Drew Stark. Piper Patrick and Daulton Fink finished as runners-up.
All finalists won a Hot Shot T-shirt, for making it into the second round of the competition. The finalists earned a spot in the semifinals. They faced-off in pairs during the halftime at several varsity games in January. Andy Klose, physical education teacher, assists Shenk with the Hot Shots. Klose is in his 18th year teaching. He smiled while sharing how, for years as the students grow, they continue to squeeze into their Hot Shot T-shirts and wear them to school.
“The trophy is the icing; the real thing is the T-shirt,” Klose said.
Hot Shot finalists from this year were Jillian Morris, Layla Johnson, Reagan Flory, Haley DeStefano, Danielle Bruno, Ashlyn Wise, Alison Fink, Makayla Reitmeyer, Lila Neefe, Anna Rank, Elyssa Nolt, Janayah Buckner, Tessa Cronin, Madison Taylor, Mason Ridilla, T.J. Kehler, Hayden Klose, Lleyton Miller, Austin Risser, Dylan Bell, Colton Pritts, Thomas Feguer, Ethan Wilkinson, Aiden Kenny, Brandon Andrews, and Logan Batche.
Because all fifth graders now attend Bear Creek School, the shooting contest began there in mid-December. In the first round of the tournament, 325 students shot. In previous years, each elementary school building held its own contest, and the top scorers from the individual schools competed in the finals. The high scorers for boys and for girls, from this year’s contest, were decided before the school district’s holiday break. Those finalists had time to rest and practice, in preparation for shooting in front of a crowd, during the half-time of varsity basketball games in January.
Every student was timed for one minute and given points for the baskets made. Point values were assigned to each of the eight designated shooting spots on the court. Eight points were awarded for a basket shot from the foul line. Baskets made from the closest spots on either side of the net were worth two points. The other shooting spots varied in points based on the distance from the net. If the student attempted all shooting positions, 10 points were added to the total score. A good score for the minute of shooting was 50, Klose said; 40 was a solid score. In past years, some students had scores in the 60s and 70s.
Shenk recounted how many of the past high school players had been Hot Shots, when they were in fifth grade. She said that at least seven current JV and varsity basketball players were Hot Shots. Three or more Elizabethtown 1,000-point scorers had also been Hot Shots. Girls varsity players Marena Lonardi and Sydney Pierson, both former Hot Shots, along with Amber Orban volunteered to count baskets and keep score for the young participants during the semifinals.
Hot Shot participants, their parents, coaches, varsity player volunteers, and fans from the community all contributed to making this year’s tournament a success. Last year’s Hot Shot Champions returned and presented trophies to the winners and runners-up. While Shenk was discussing the program, she made it very clear it was not at all about her. She was thankful that the Hot Shots Tournament continued to generate so much excitement from the students, year after year. Shenk quietly reflected, as she sat on the bleachers during the third quarter of the game, about what a teacher leaves behind during her career. She did not want to use the word legacy, but it seems an accurate description for the Elizabethtown Hot Shots basketball tournament tradition.