Knights award Free Throw trophies to three youth of Diocese
A trio of young basketball players from the Trenton Diocese – two of them repeat winners – earned accolades, trophies and their places on the list of this year’s 12 winners of the 2023 Knights of Columbus Free Throw Tournament state finals, held March 25 in St. Thomas Parish, Old Bridge.
Nine-year-old Elizabeth Foley, a member of St. Paul Parish, Princeton, sank an admirable 20 of her 25 attempts at the basket. Emma Elmer, who calls St. Rose Parish, Belmar, her spiritual home, tied another competitor with 21 baskets, then won in a shootout with five more swishes to top the field of 10-year-old girls. Elmer is no stranger to pressure on the court: she had won the nine-year-old girls title last year with a shootout as well
Joseph Troiano, a 14-year-old communicant of St. James Parish, Pennington, needs an addition on his family’s mantle to accommodate the weight of his sports trophies. This year, he made 22 of his attempts at the goal; this trophy undoubtedly sits beside the one earned from the Knights last year as a 13-year-old, as well as one earned in 2018 as a nine-year-old.
Beginning this winter, scores of young competitors ages nine to 14 had competed at numerous contests hosted by their local Knights of Columbus councils where each made 25 attempts to sink a basketball from the foul line. The field of successful hoopsters was winnowed further during the diocesan-level finals earlier this month, as one boy and one girl from each age group were chosen to represent the Diocese of Trenton and compete against four others in their age/gender category, one from each of New Jersey’s five Catholic (arch)dioceses.
Each boy and girl competitor exhibited their own unique style as they attempted their foul shots, whether it be a special basketball bounce pattern, breathing ritual or wearing a lucky outfit. Knights from local councils tallied the scores and fielded rebounds as they encouraged the competitors, telling them to “take your time” or “finish it off,” while Knights State Officers, parents and friends clapped enthusiastically and recorded the children with cellphones for posterity.
Now in its 51st year, the Knights’ Free Throw Tournament is one of their most successful international youth activities. The Catholic fraternal organization’s website explained, “Councils sponsor the tournament to provide an athletic outlet and encourage the values of sportsmanship and healthy competition.” Knights of Columbus State Free Throw chairman, John A. Gazis, noted the tournament held value for each competitor, regardless of win or loss.
“The kids encourage, cheer or console each other,” Gazis said. “That is true sportsmanship.”