Athletic talent is always a plus, but when it comes to the Gazette Foul-Shooting Contest, what usually works best is years of practice and a rigid routine.
Basketball players from around Section II will converge on the Pat Riley Center at Schenectady High School Saturday morning to see just who is best from the free-throw line, marking the return of the Gazette-sponsored event which was last held in 2003. Boys registration will begin at 9:30 a.m., and competition at 10. Girls will begin signing in at 11 a.m., and the event will begin at 11:30.
The goal will be to sink a perfect 25 of 25 free throws, a feat achieved twice by 2002 and 2003 boys’ winner Jeff Juron of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake. Now an assistant coach at the University of Rochester, where he played for four years and helped the Yellowjackets into the 2005 NCAA Division III championship game, Juron said it was his pre-shot routine that helped him go 50-for-50 over two seasons and post back-to-back wins in the Gazette contest.
“Every time I went to the line, I did the same routine that coach Zullo taught me,” said Juron, referring to former Shenendehowa and Broadalbin-Perth varsity coach Jim Zullo who coached Juron at the AAU level. “I dribbled three times, presented the ball and shot it. I tried to eliminate all wasted motion.”
Dawn Dagostino, a 1997 Mohonasen graduate, posted back-to-back wins in the girls’ event as a junior and senior.
“I did have my routine before my foul shot,” said Dagostino, who played college softball at Iona for four years after graduating from Mohonasen. “I would bounce the ball twice, and then say a few things to myself, to remind me what I needed to do to follow through.”
Dagostino didn’t have to be perfect like Juron to win her two Gazette titles, although she did throw in a perfect five-for-five in the second round of a shootoff to beat Columbia’s Becky Snow in the 1996 event. She sank 22 free throws to claim the 1996 title, and then sank 23 the following year to win her second crown.
It was in 1997 that the Mighty Warriors posted a rare double when Mohonasen’s Bill Male captured the boys title with 24 of 25 successful tries. Both winners had the help of another past champion, Dagostino’s brother, Dave, who was a perfect 25-for-25 to claim first place in 1991.
“My neighbor and friend, Bill Male, and I would train with my brother, and we would focus on shooting foul shots between our drills,” said Dagostino, a special education teacher at Niskayuna. “This helped Bill and I to be successful on the court when we were tired and under pressure during our games. Working with my older brother really helped us during my senior year, and we did a lot of foul shooting together. The foul-shooting contest was a great opportunity for me to train with my brother, and then get some good experience as an athlete in a competitive and friendly atmosphere with great athletes.”
While Juron credited Zullo with the idea of developing a routine at the free-throw line, it was his father, Don Juron, who worked with him and perfected the process. Juron, who also sank 23 of 25 free throws to finish second in the contest as a freshman, still smiles when he thinks of his two-year run of perfection.
“I practiced my routine over and over with my dad, and yes, I’m proud of making 25 of 25 two years in a row,” said Juron. “My appreciation has grown with time.”
While Juron is the only boy to post two perfect scores, Daven Dagostino and nine other boys have posted a 25. Juron’s feat of winning two titles is matched by Perth’s Ron Centar (1963-64), Mont Pleasant’s Rit Rafalik (1973-74) and Fort Plain’s Brad Straight (1998 and 2000).
The girls’ record for most successful free throws is 24, held by Schenectady’s Jackie Knapp in 1995 and Bishop Maginn’s Val Klopfer in 1998. Dagostino is one of just two girls to win multiple titles, Broad-albin-Perth’s Katrina Springer the first to do it in 1987 and 1988.
Any school in Section II is eligible to send two boys and two girls to the contest, either from the junior varsity or varsity basketball teams. Participants should be in uniform and accompanied by a coach, parent or guardian. For more information contact Schenectady High athletic director Steve Boynton at boyntons@Schenectady.k12.ny.us.
1966 — Ed Cole, Fonda-Fultonville (won shootoff and finished with 30 of 30 after Galway’s Ron Pesta and Ballston Spa’s Bob Farstad were also 25-for-25). 1973 — Rit Rafalik, Mont Pleasant. 1978 — Jim Corona, Colonie. 1979 — Ted Lassiter, Mont Pleasant. 1982 — Rob Spagnola, Amsterdam. 1991 — Dave Dagostino, Mohonasen. 1999 — Chris Hrycenko, Broadalbin-Perth. 2001— Ryan Brainard, Warrensburg. 2002 — Jeff Juron, BH-BL. 2003 - Jeff Juron, BH-BL.
1962 — Reed Schultz, Voorheesville. 1963 — Ron Cetnar, Perth. 1964 — Ron Cetnar, Perth. 1965 — Ernie Kahn, Fort Plain. 1966 — Ed Cole, Fonda-Fultonville, 1967 — Dave Topka, Scotia-Glenville. 1968 — Jim Pawlik, Bishop Gibbons. 1969 — John Gallagher, Cobleskill. 1970 — Jack Kalinkewicz, Galway. 1971 — Paul Spence, Bethlehem. 1972 — Brian Brown, Mont Pleasant. 1973 — Rit Rafalik, Mont Pleasant. 1974 — Rit Rafalik, Mont Pleasant. 1975 — Bill Butterfield, Mohonasen. 1976 — Jerry Joselyn, Niskayuna. 1977 — Lou Maggiore, St. Peter’s. 1978 — Jim Carona, Colonie. 1979 —Ted Lassiter, Mont Pleasant. 1980 - No event. 1981 — Jim Oppedisano, Niskayuna. 1982 — Rob Spagnola, Amsterdam. 1983 — Dan Dodge, Northville. 1984 — Ray Hoffman, Hadley-Luzerne. 1985 — Andy Goodemote, Gloversville. 1986 — Mike Muller, Johnstown. 1987 — Bill Conlee, Hoosic Valley. 1988 — Joe Girard, St. Mary’s (GF). 1989 — Kris DiCaterino, Amsterdam. 1990 — Andre Lundstrom, Sillwater. 1991 — Dave Dagostino, Mohonasen. 1992 — Dennis King, Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons. 1993 — Andrew Yauchler, Duanesburg. 1994 — Darrin Jahnel, Schalmont. 1995 — Bryan Daoust, Coxsackie-Athens. 1996 — Andrew Lammon, LaSalle. 1997 —Bill Male, Mohonasen. 1998 — Brad Strait, Fort Plain. 1999 — Chris Hrycenko, Broadalbin-Perth. 2000 — Brad Strait, Fort Plain. 2001 — Ryan Brainard, Warrensburg. 2002 — Jeff Juron , BH-BL. 2003 — Jeff Juron , BH-BL.
1981 — Donna Korona, Mohonasen. 1982 — Trish Burmaster, Notre-DameBishop Gibbons. 1983 — Beth Schirmer, Niskayuna. 1984 — Brenda Friessen, Linton. 1985 — Shawn Shafer, Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons. 1986 — Kelly McGraw, Bishop Maginn. 1987 — Katrina Springer, Broadalbin. 1988 — Katrina Springer, Broadalbin-Perth. 1989 — Kelly Cooke, Middleburgh. 1990 — Brandy Bovee, Corinth. 1991 — Tami Pink, BH-BL. 1992 — Jennifer Coutu, Catholic Central. 1993 — Nikki Dermentzis, Scotia-Glenville. 1994 — Kelly Poalino, Schalmont. 1995 — Jackie Knapp, Schenectady. 1996 — Dawn Dagostino, Mohonasen. 1997 — Dawn Dagostino, Mohonasen. 1998 — Val Kloper, Bishop Maginn. 1999 — Kate Carroll, Watervliet. 2000 — Angelica Dempsey, Hudson. 2001 — Liz Kergel, Schenectady Christian. 2002 — Jen Rockwell, Scotia-Glenville. 2003 — Kristin Cascanet, Middleburgh.
Knapp and Klopfer share girls’ record of 24.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or firstname.lastname@example.org