Hoops, honors, hospitality.
That’s what the Rhode Island State Elks Association, in conjunction with Tri-City Lodge No. 14, served Saturday at two different locations in Warwick.
The day began with the Elks National Free Throw Contest that resulted in a half-dozen individual youngsters winning Rhode Island championships at the Warwick Boys & Girls Club on Frederick Street and earning a berth in the March 23 New England Finals in South Portland, Maine.
After 15 youngsters ages 8 to 13 competed for the prestigious state crowns, Tri-City Lodge rolled out its always-welcome mat and treated all participants and their parents to a delicious dinner inside Lodge 14 on West Shore Road.
“Unfortunately, we can only have one winner in each age division,” said Steven R. Lagesse, a past exalted ruler of Lodge 14 who serves as state director for the National Elks Hoop Shoot Program. “But in our eyes, all these kids are champions.”
With a total of six Elks officials stationed at two baskets inside the jam-packed gym at the Warwick Boys & Girls Club Norwood branch, the upstart hoopsters were allowed to shoot two rounds of 10 and 15 foul shots each to determine the respective winners in six categories: Boys and girls ages 8-9, 10-11 and 12-13.
For the second time in three years, Justin Grenier, 13, shot his way to the R.I. championship and second such berth in the regionals. He also won a state Elks Hoop Shoot title at age 11 but did not win the New England crown.
“Justin is the pride of Tri-City Lodge No. 14,” said Mark Eaton, the exalted ruler of the West Shore Road-based Elks who also served as host and chef for Saturday’s post-shoot dinner. “He’s our champion … Justin did a great job representing our Lodge and we all wish him well in the upcoming New England Championship.”
Grenier, who lives in East Greenwich and is a seventh-grader at Archie R. Cole Middle School, sank eight of 10 foul shots in the first round then canned 11 of 15 to edge runner-up Kamron O’Brien of Coventry-West Greenwich Lodge 2285 and Zion Fernandes of East Providence Lodge 2337.
Justin is the son of Tim and Laurie Grenier. He is a shooting guard in the EGBA (East Greenwich Basketball Association) and whose favorite pro player is Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics.
If Grenier is successful in the regional contest, he’ll shoot for the Elks National Free Throw Championship that will be held April 12-13 in Springfield, Mass. Part of that event includes a Tip-Off Dinner at the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Meanwhile, Tri-City Lodge 14 not only got a champion; the day resulted in a prospective member for the Warwick-based Elks.
Tim Grenier, Justin’s father who owns and operates The Grenier Group Custom Builders, whose company is developing a 10-unit residential project in Warwick Neck, was so impressed with the day’s event he inquired about membership at Lodge 14.
“This was a fun event for the kids and parents,” Tim Grenier said. “I’m only right around the corner; it makes all the sense for me to join a great organization.”
Tim Grenier later received an application from Lori Eaton, Lodge 14’s treasurer who, along with Tri-City House Committee chairman Noel Petisce and Bruce Caldwell, served the macaroni and meatball dinner Saturday.
Other age bracket winners, who like Grenier received a beautiful trophy from Regional Hoop Shoot Director Richard P. Blinn of Haverhill, Mass., were: Girls 8-9: 1-Ava Wentworth of South Kingstown Lodge 1899, 2-Courtney Swider, Newport Lodge 104; Girls 10-11: 1-Anna Nerbonne, South Kingstown Lodge 1899, 2-Payton Cahill, Woonsocket Lodge 850, 3-Abigail Lynn Kane, Newport lodge 104.
Boys 8-9: 1-David Parenteau, Smithfield Lodge 2359, Sean Bonneau, Bristol County Lodge 1860, 3-Michael Haberlin, South Kingstown Lodge 1899; Boys 10-11: 1-Ryan Bonneau, Bristol County Lodge 1860, 2-Evan Maloney, South Kingstown Lodge 1899.
Eight other ranking Elks also had a hand in making Saturday’s state championship special. They were: Daniel C. Watson, Mark Mahoney and Larry Walesco, South Kingstown; Charlotte Carignan, North District; Eugene Rayon, Newport; Janice Godfrey, East Providence; Raymond Delorme and Leo Blanchette, Coventry-West Greenwich.
Watson, who now serves as state advisor for the Elks Hoop Shoot Contest, was the event’s director for more than two decades before stepping down and being followed by Lagesse, a charter member of the Tri-City Elks that is a merger of the former Warwick, Providence and Pawtucket lodges.