HANOVER — Mac Annus’s parents beamed with pride as they watched their son catch fire in the second half to rally and win the A Shot For Life Challenge at the Starland Sportsplex on Tuesday.
Greg Annus rebounded alongside his son’s friend since kindergarten, David Brennan, and Maureen Annus cheered quietly from a nearby bench. Maureen’s father, Bob McDonald, died of brain cancer in 2005, and the entire Annus family was thrilled that Mac could hoist the trophy with McDonald in mind.
“I’m very happy,” Maureen said through a mask. “I’m sure my father is, too. He would have loved to watch Mac play.”
Annus, a 2020 Belmont High graduate who will play at Roger Williams, hit 86.78 percent of his shots over a span of two hours. He outlasted Scituate sharpshooter Jack Poirier, who had built a lead at halftime and hit 85.88 percent of his shots in total. George Smith (Brooks School) took third at 83.1 percent.
Mike Slonina, the CEO, president, and founder of A Shot For Life, Inc. was incredibly proud of everyone involved for successfully running the event amid extremely unusual circumstances.
“Today was the biggest triumph on the day of an event in A Shot For Life history,” Slonina said. “There could not have been more things stacked against our program, and I’m so eternally grateful.”
The event was originally scheduled for last Saturday, but an impromptu Amateur Athletic Union tournament scheduled for that date pushed the ASFL Challenge back to Tuesday (boys) and Wednesday (girls).
A volunteer at the door took the temperature of every person who entered the building. All interns, volunteers, rebounders and spectators wore masks. Players did the same outside of when they were shooting, and each player brought their own basketball and was allowed one spectator and four rebounders. Interns and volunteers were assigned to specific courts, where they stood with hand sanitizer, towels, and water.
As pop music blared in the background, and time ticked off the clock, 16 shooters showed why they’re considered some of the top snipers in the state.
Globe All-Scholastic James McGowan, a rising senior at Westwood, drilled jumpers at a steady clip with his non-dominant left hand after suffering a spiral fracture in his right arm prior to the competition.
“I had never practiced with my left or played with it before,” McGowan said. “It went a lot better than I expected. It was exhausting, but I just pushed through. If all these cancer patients can do what they do, I can push through a little tiredness.”
Poirier, the Patriot League Fisher MVP and also a Globe All-Scholastic, got in a rhythm early, consistently drilling shot after shot. He clapped his fingers, snapped his hands, or shook his head in the rare instance that he missed, then he quickly regrouped and found a groove once again.
As he did so, Annus steadily built up momentum, and eventually his consistency launched him over the top. Annus, the Middlesex MVP, said he had a “chip on his shoulder” after taking fourth the year prior.
He warmed up earlier in the day in his backyard, and the heavy gusts of winds made shooting indoors for the first time in over four months seem like a breeze. Annus was overjoyed to prevail, but he was most proud of raising $1,000 for the cause [brain cancer research] and honoring his grandfather.
“It hits a little close to home,” Annus said. “It means a lot to be a part of this organization.”