Basketball fundamentalists should meet Maddie McCracken.
At a time when many purists bemoan the demise of the sport's fundamentals, the 11-year-old McCracken is a standout foul shooter.
In fact, the North Wildwood resident hardly ever misses.
McCracken finished second in the girls division this past weekend in The Elks Hoop Shoot national free-throw contest at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Girls and boys, ages 8-13, from all 50 states competed for the right to get to Springfield.
McCracken sank 22-of-25 foul shots in the final round. The winner, Nikyla Green, of Dallas, made 23-of-25. McCracken lost on a tough call. She made 23 shots but had one disallowed because she stepped on the foul line.
"I wasn't mad," McCracken said. "Being second at nationals is just so cool."
McCracken competed against girls from Montana, Virginia, Kentucky and Utah at Springfield. The players were introduced to the crowd with a light show just like NBA starters.
"It was packed with (fans)," McCracken said. "There were colorful lights flashing out. They called your name out. It was cool."
McCracken had won the state foul-shooting championship the past three years but never had advanced past the regional level until this year.
McCracken comes from a basketball family. Her father, Scott, is the coach of the Wildwood High School boys team. Scott and his wife, Liz, have three daughters. In addition to Maddie, there's 14-year-old Mackenzie and 5-year-old Macie. All play basketball.
"There's basketballs all over the house," Maddie said. "We have a basket outside. In the summer, we play all the time. We like to play, but we like to win. We like competing."
Maddie began her trip to Springfield in December by sinking 21-of-25 foul shots to win her local Elks club championship at the Wildwood Recreation Center. She then won district (21-of-25) and state (17-of-25) titles before making 20-of-25 free throws to win the Northeast Central Regional championship in Scranton, Pa., in March.
McCracken, a sixth-grader at Margaret Mace Elementary School in North Wildwood, worked with he father and her Margaret Mace coaches Liz Golden and Jean Golden to get ready for the tournament. Maddie tried to make at least 200 free throws every day.
"We went every day, and she took 300 to 400 foul shots," Scott McCracken said.
Maddie already has her basketball future planned out.
"I'm going to go to Wildwood High School and coach (Dave) Troiano is going to be my coach," she said.
McCracken is not a complete throwback. The Hall of Fame had rims of different heights, and the 4-foot-11 McCracken threw down a few dunks on the 6-foot rim.
What's more fun, sinking a foul shot or dunking?
"I don't know," she said with a laugh.
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