Craig kids claim first, second places in state level of Elks Hoop Shoot |

Craig kids claim first, second places in state level of Elks Hoop Shoot

Jacie Evenson qualifies for regional round of youth basketball contest

Jacie Evenson, left, and Tanner Etzler display their sport of choice in front of the Craig Middle School trophy case. The two competed in Salida Saturday for the state round of the Elks National Hoop Shoot Free Throw Contest. Etzler took second in the 12- to 13-year-old boys division and Evenson won the 10- and 11-year-old girls, advancing to the regional level, which takes place in Denver in March. Etzler will also be able to attend if the first-place winner is unable to compete.
Andy Bockelman

Two of Craig’s young athletes have been on target for weeks now, and at least one of them is not quite done yet.

Jacie Evenson and Tanner Etzler represented their hometown with pride this weekend during the state round of the Elks National Hoop Shoot free throw contest Saturday in Salida.

Evenson, a Craig Middle School sixth-grader, claimed the honor of the top shooter in Colorado among 10- and 11-year-old girls, placing first by sinking 14 out of a possible 25 free throws in the bucket, having attended state previously in 2014.

Etzler, a seventh-grader, had a sizable total in the boys 12 to 13 age group, only three of his shots not going in, taking a perfect 10 for 10 on the first set. However, even with 22 shots drained, he took second behind an opponent who had 23.

Following the state competition is regionals, and Evenson will be up against the best of the best from Wyoming, Kansas and Nebraska in the West Central Region 8 Hoop Shoot Semi-Final March 12 in Denver, which will also be the same day as the state championship game for high school basketball, where she hopes to see her hoopster heroes from Moffat County High School.

As far as her own nerves about being in the spotlight, she’s feeling pretty confident.

“I think it’ll go good,” she smiled. “They’re nice people, and it’s always fun.”

Etzler, as the runner-up, may have a shot at going to Denver if the winner of his division is unable to do so.

Regional victors will attend the national finals in April in Chicago.

Both local players have had a lot of basketball experience growing up, each of them playing for Parks and Recreation and Amateur Athletic Union and Etzler participating on the Craig Middle School team, for which Evenson will be eligible next year.

Etzler, who’s been known to swish some shots from mid-court in the CMS gym, said he enjoys the challenge of the free throw, when it’s just the player, the ball and the hoop.

“Free throws can win games for you,” he said.

Frank Sadvar, grand exaleted ruler of the Craig Elks Lodge No. 1577, oversaw the two during the local level of the Hoop Shoot that sent them to districts, which they both won as well.

Besides it being a rarity to have two kids make it to state, it’s been a long while since Craig sent someone to regionals, he noted. The most recent was Paul Laliberte, who took third at the 2007 event.

As far as what it will take for Evenson to make it to the final round, the head of the Craig Elks has only one word. Well, three.

“Practice, practice, practice,” Sadvar said. “That’s what it takes.”

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.

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