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Strathmere youth wins state FT championship

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C.J. Furey Strathmere resident C.J. Furey, pictured with Knights of Columbus state general program director Ray Sands, won the KOC state free throw championship last weekend When C.J. Furey attended a local free-throw competition held at Bishop McHugh Regional Catholic School back in January, he was there more to support his older brother.

“Brian was doing the competition at Bishop McHugh and when we got there we saw that 9-year-olds could do it, so I just said to C.J., ‘Go ahead out there and shoot,’” said Christine Furey, the mother of C.J. and Brian.

C.J. wound up shooting his way to a state championship.

After winning local, district and regional championships earlier this winter, C.J. captured the state championship of the Knights of Columbus Free Throw competition last weekend by sinking 22 of 25 attempts at the event held at Our Lady of Victories Roman Catholic Church in Sayreville.

C.J. is the first-ever winner in the 9-year-old boys division. In previous years, players needed to be at least 10 years old to compete.

“I was very happy because this was my first year doing it and I really didn’t want to do it the first day until my mom told me I should try it and then I did pretty well,” said C.J., a third-grader at Upper Township Elementary School. “I was excited that I went so far.”

The Knights of Columbus free throw competition for 9-year-olds included shots with a 28 1/2-inch circumference basketball – better known as a regulation girls basketball – from a line placed three feet in front of a regulation free-throw stripe. C.J. sank 12 of 15 attempts to win the local competition at Bishop McHugh in January, before making 21 of 25 at the district level in Ventnor in February and 23 of 25 at the regional level at Paul VI High School in Haddonfield in late March.

C.J. was one of just five qualifiers for the state championships in his age group.

“I was very nervous because it was the top five kids in the state that I had to go up against,” C.J. said.

Consistency and repetition served C.J. well over the course of the four competitions.

“Sometimes if I miss it I can correct it and change my shot,” C.J. said. “But if I’m shooting well I try to stay in the same position and keep going the same way.”

C.J. was also helped by his older brother’s success. Although Brian, 12, didn’t move past this year’s local competition, he has had numerous top three finishes at the regional level at previous Knights of Columbus and Elks National Hoop Shoot competitions.

C.J., Brian, their mother and father, Joe, live reside in Strathmere.

In addition to basketball, C.J. also participates in soccer and baseball programs offered by Upper Township Recreation.

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