COLUMBIA CITY — Some say the free-throw is the most difficult shot in basketball to make.
Standing 15 feet from the basket, toes on the line, with everyone watching, can bring unbearable pressure. For two young ladies from Whitley County, hitting free-throws is no problem.
At the Elks Hoop Shoot State Finals in New Castle, Niya Bell was the state runner-up in the 10-11-year-old age group, and Mackensy Mabie won the state championship in the 12-13-year-old bracket.
Both Bell and Mabie won their spots at state finals through local and district competitions. Those competitions were held in Columbia City. Mabie made 24 of 25 free-throws in the county finals and went 23 for 25 in the district competition. Bell sank 18 of 25 at the county shoot and went on to make 16 out of 25 for the district.
At the state meet, Mabie started out strong and put the pressure on the other shooters. In round one, each of the players receives 10 attempts. Mabie sank all 10 of her shots and was the only one to complete that task. The other players began feeling the pressure and Mabie ended up hitting 22 of 25 from the line to take home first place. Mabie became the first player to win the state hoop-shoot title from Whitley County since Darby Maggard.
Bell sank 16 of her 25 free-throws at the state competition. Bell’s mother, Nealy, said her daughter was a little disappointed in how it turned out, as Niya would routinely hit 24 of 25 shots in practice from the foul line. However, overall, it was a great experience in only her second time in the competition.
The girls also experienced some of Indiana basketball’s most historic sites. The Friday evening before the competition, they visited the Indiana Hall of Fame in New Castle. The actual Hoop Shoot competition took place in the New Castle Fieldhouse, which is the largest high school gym in the world. After the competition, the awards ceremony took place in Knightstown at the Hoosier Gym where the movie “Hoosiers” was filmed.
Next up for Mabie is the Regional Hoop Shoot which is March 17 in Angola. Shooters who won state competitions in Michigan and Ohio will also be there vying for the chance to move on to the national meet which will be held in Chicago in April.
“She’s pretty pumped about it,” Mabie’s mother, Twyla, said regarding the upcoming regional match in Angola.
Maggard made it to the national competition. That is now the goal for Mabie – to sink enough shots in Angola to move on to the final round.
The pressure will be on as Mabie stands 15 feet away from the hoop and tries to put in enough shots to be the best shooter around.