HANOVER — Casey McLaren stood beyond the 3-point arc slightly to the left of the basket. His former AAU teammates Pete Kapanides and Evan Cook were under the basket rebounding, and for hours on end they fed the former Newburyport High great as he put up one shot after another.
For the second straight year, McLaren was vying for the honor of being declared the Best Shooter in Massachusetts, the title bestowed upon the winner of the annual A Shot For Life Challenge. He, along with fellow Newburyport resident Will Batchelder of Governor’s Academy, was among the elite shooters from across the state invited to the highly-competitive shooting competition, which doubles as a fundraiser benefitting the Dr. Curry Research Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The Best Shooter in Massachusetts title is well earned. In order to win, you have to post the highest shooting percentage in the gym over the course of two hours, during which shooters continuously shoot free throws, jumpers and 3-pointers in an environment where every shot counts.
Last year McLaren didn’t feel he did that well, but this time he got into a groove and stayed consistent throughout the two-hour length of the competition. While the incoming Tufts University freshman didn’t finish in the top three, he still went 807 of 1,180 (68.4%), getting stronger as the afternoon wore on and at one point knocking down 21 consecutive 3-pointers towards the end.
“I kept trying to get 10 in a row,” McLaren said. “Once I finally got it I got another 10, but that was towards the end when I was really getting tired so I put my legs into that and really focused.”
The competition was ultimately won by Rivers star Jay Dieterle, who made 89% of his shots, followed by Scituate’s Jack Poirier and Haverhill’s Dallion Johnson, the Phillips Andover star who recently committed to Penn State.
Though complete results weren’t publicized, Batchelder likely finished close to the top of the list as well. The former St. John’s Prep great, who is repeating his sophomore year at Governor’s, made 80% of his shots over the course of the afternoon. With his father Bill, the former University of New Hampshire football and baseball star, feeding him passes, Batchelder frequently maintained long shooting streaks, and at one point he knocked down 19 of 20 shots, with his shooting form staying consistent even as the day stretched on.
“Just stayed mentally focused for as long as I can,” Batchelder said when asked for the key to the day. “And that led to my shooting to the best of my ability.”
With the summer league and AAU seasons winding down, A Shot For Life represented one of the last competitive opportunities for its participants before the start of the next school year. Batchelder will soon join his new teammates at Governor’s, who he’s already gotten to know through summer ball, while McLaren will soon begin the next phase of his basketball career when he arrives at Tufts.
“It’s been a good four years,” McLaren said of his time at Newburyport High. “Definitely ready for the next four years at Tufts, but don’t regret anything about Newburyport.”