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Courtesy photo

Nashua 11-year-old Tilak Patel wowed the crowd at the Elks Northeast Regional Hoop Shoot Championships as he calmly dropped in 21 out of 25 free throws to win the 10/11 year old Boys Division.
Sunday, April 22, 2012

Nashua’s Patel shoots for National title Saturday

Greater Nashua Elks Regional Hoop Shoot champion Tilak Patel is ready for the National Hoop Shoot finals in Springfield, Mass., on Saturday.

Nashua’s 11-year-old free throw master has the opportunity to win the coveted 2012 Elks National Hoop Shoot Championship and have his name inscribed in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

This will be Patel’s fifth level of Hoop Shoot competition since he opened the competition with a win at the Greater Nashua Elks Hoop Shoot in December. He followed that up by winning the Southwest District title, also in Nashua, the New Hampshire State Elks title in Portsmouth and the Northeast Regional championship in Maine last month.

Patel has dropped in a phenomenal 77 out of 100 free throws.

The five other Northeast Regional champions are: 9-year-old Hansen Towle of Connecticut, 13-year-old T.J. Cahill of Rhode Island, 9-year-old Peyton Grant of Maine, as well as two Massachusetts girls – 11-year-old Emily Haskell and 13-year-old Larsen Henken.

A field of more than three million boys and girls, ages 8-13, have participated in the contest since last fall. Patel will travel with his parents for the three-day National Hoop Shoot Finals, courtesy of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, to Springfield, Mass., the birthplace of basketball, to be among the 72 top youngsters vying for the chance to claim one of six national trophies awarded at the Elks Hoop Shoot National Free Throw Contest Friday through Sunday.

Over the past 40 years, the Nashua Elks had sent 10 Regional Champions to the Elks National Hoop Shoot finals: Steven Piwowoski; Melissa Ayotte; Debra Killmon; Ellen Tipping; Ryan Robinson; Ryan Sullivan; Michael Panagoulias; Caleb Donnelly of Hudson, who won the Boys 12-13 National Hoop Shoot championship in 2006; Max Coleman of Londonderry; and Tom O’Hearn of Hudson.

Patel will make 11 with the hope of adding another Elks National Hoop Shoot champion to the list.

The Elks Hoop Shoot Free Throw Contest has seen more than 112 million participants since it’s inception, making it the largest coeducational youth sports program in the nation and is funded entirely by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.