Laying it on the line

Paul Laliberte may only stand 4-feet-11, but can drain a basketball from 15 feet away with pinpoint accuracy.

The 12-year-old Craig Middle School sixth-grader will represent his hometown Saturday in Denver at the regional Elks free-throw contest "Hoop Shoot" with a trip to Springfield, Mass., on the line.

Laliberte was the most prolific and consistent free-throw shooter in his first three competitions -- city, districts and state, and will look to make it a perfect 4-for-4 this weekend.

He will be up against 12 and 13-year-olds from the four-state region of Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas and Colorado.

The four-state regional competition will feature one boy and one girl from the 8-9, 10-11 and 12-13-year-old age groups.

"Yeah, you could say it's my hobby," Laliberte said of his free throw success. "I guess you could say it helps, and coaches like it."

The only child to Mike and Martha, Paul said he has been playing basketball since the first grade, when his dad began coaching him.

"I just started liking them (free throws) last year," Paul said of his newfound hobby.

What got him hooked on the charity stripe?

"My dad said we're not leaving until you hit 10 out of 10 free-throws." Paul said with a smile.

Every morning from 7- 8 a.m. Paul practices his art in the CMS gymnasium with his father's assistance retrieving the shots.

The spiky-haired and soft-spoken pre-teen has a special routine --he begins by shooting 10 in a row, and will only advance to 20 in a row after nailing the first 10.

Wednesday morning marked a first in his life when he sank a perfect 25 in a row.

All of the Elks competitions are set up so that each child attempts 10 in a row, and then 15 more for a total of 25. In the even of a tie, the contestants shoot in groups of five.

Do you think he will be nervous in Denver?

"Oh yeah, real nervous," he said.

After being born in Steamboat Springs and moving to Craig at an early age, Paul is excited about the possibility of not only competing at the national level but at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

"I feel really good," he said at Wednesday's Gold Crown basketball practice. "This would definitely be the right time to hit 25 out of 25. I feel pretty confident."

Look for results in Monday's Craig Daily Press.

Drew Turner can be contacted at 970-824-7031, ext 211, or aturner@craigdailypress.com

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