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Jefferson students square off in Hot Shots basketball competition

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MASSENA - Christmas wouldn’t be complete without snow on the ground, the arrival of Santa Claus and, at Jefferson Elementary School, a hard-fought basketball shooting competition.

With the arrival of Christmas comes the school’s annual Hot Shots competition, held the final afternoon before students leave for their holiday break.

It’s a tradition that, while it hasn’t around as long as Christmas, is still warmly embraced by the students as part of the holiday season.

Physical education teacher Patrick Henrie began it more than two decades ago, modeled after a similar program former physical education teacher Robert Wanke had started.

Mr. Wanke had held a basketball-shooting competition during his tenure as physical education teacher, but unlike Hot Shots, it wasn’t a school-wide event.

That began after Mr. Henrie watched a basketball-shooting competition on television and decided to localize it at Jefferson, starting with his class and then later expanding into a school-wide assembly that’s held at the end of his basketball unit, the final day of school before breaking for the holidays.

And so it was on Friday when eight boys and eight girls took to the half-court. Their classmates, who were assembled on the other half of the court, shouted their names at they launched the basketball toward the hoop, trying to net as many baskets as possible in one minute.

The players have 60 seconds in each round and a choice of five spots on the floor to stand and shoot. The closest spot, which some players used to rack up the easy shots, earns one point for each shot made, while the most distant spot gets five points for each successful basket.

But in order to make the final tournament, students in grades three to six have their own classroom competition. That involves three classrooms at each grade level.

Then they take part in a “shoot-off” at the classroom level to whittle the participants from three to two for the Hot Shots assembly.

With Mr. Henrie standing by with his clipboard containing the names of the competitors and a stopwatch, they went to work in front of their classmates on Friday.

For the boys, Lleyton Ladue faced off against Brandon Thompson at the sixth-grade level, while Seth Denny and Jonathan French squared off at the fifth-grade level, Dash Lazore and Austin Kingsley competed at the fourth-grade level and Owen Wood and Holden Hewlett faced off at the third-grade level.

The finals had the competitors whittled down to Lleyton against Austin, with Lleyton taking the top spot.

In the girls’ competition, sixth-graders Rebecca Lobdell and Meghan Lambert squared off, while Lindsay Montroy and Lindsey Ladue competed in the fifth-grade competition, Jenessa Estes-Berry and Savannah Gauthier squared off at the fourth-grade level and Jeanelle Burke and Ella Oakes tried to outshoot each other at the third-grade level.

When the finals rolled around, it was Rebecca squaring off against Savannah, with Savannah taking outshooting her opponent.

None of the competitors walked away empty-handed though. They received Hot Shots certificates for their participation and, if they’re still at Jefferson next year, another chance to claim the top title.

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