Youngsters succeed in Knights' Free Throw Tournament
By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
There’s just no stopping Evangeline Leung on the basketball court.
This year marks the third consecutive time the youngster, a member of St. Gabriel Parish, Marlboro, bested all female competitors in her age group to take home a trophy in the annual Knights of Columbus Free Throw Tournament Trenton Diocese finals.
The contest, held March 24 in Holy Family School, Lakewood, saw Leung and scores of other skilled hoopsters from Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties calming their nerves, bouncing the orange orb and letting it sail toward the hoop to finish with a satisfying swish.
Photo Gallery: Knights of Columbus Free Throw Tournament
Created by the Knights in 1972 and rapidly becoming one of the most successful youth activities sponsored by the Catholic fraternal organization, the annual Free Throw Tournament wends its way through local and district levels to the diocesan contest culmination: to crown the most skilled 9 through 14-year-old boys and girls behind the foul line.
Each boy and girl competitor was allowed three practice shots, then made 25 attempts from the foul line to the basket 13 feet away. This year’s group of Trenton Diocese winners hailed from nine parishes and sank a total of 199 baskets in the preliminary round.
In the age 9 division, Daniel Lavan of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, sank 13 baskets, while Kaitlyn Roscioli of St. Isaac Jogues Parish, Marlton, made 18 baskets. Brendan Jensen of St. Gabriel Parish sank 21 of his attempts to win in the 10-year-old boy division, and Caroline Foley of St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown, bested other 10-year-old girls when she scored 20 times.
It took Nicholas Pappietro of St. Veronica Parish, Howell, three rounds to come out at the top of his 11-year-old boy competitors; he scored 20, then four, then three more foul shots for the win. Leung’s 19 successful baskets bested the other 11-year-old female competitors, earning her a third straight visit to the state finals.
In the 12-year-old contests, Jack Mogell of St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, scored 21 successful shots to win the boys’ trophy, and Casey Collins of St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, took home the girls’ trophy after sinking 18 foul shots. Thirteen-year-old Tyler Spencer, a member of St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, bested other boys his age to make a nearly-perfect tally of 22 baskets, and Caitlin Landgraf of St. John the Baptist Parish, topped the girls with a score of 16.
Jack Orr of St. Joan of Arc scored 20 shots for the 14-year-old boy win, while Katie Ciuffreda of St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville, endured three rounds (11, 2 and 4 baskets respectively) to finally earn her trophy for the 14-year-old girl title.
The next stop for the 12 Trenton victors will be the Knights’ State Free Throw Finals, slated for April 7 in Our Lady of Peace Parish, Fords, where they will be competing against four other qualifiers in each division, one representing each of New Jersey’s five Catholic Dioceses.