HANOVER — Shay Bollin had her teammate at Bridgewater-Raynham, Kenzie Matulonis, nearby on the adjacent court, but otherwise, all she needed in her corner of the gym was a ball, her rebounders, a few fans, and the hoop in front.
Bollin was isolated from the other competitors, facing a wall, and she locked in like she always does and shot a blistering 80.91 percent to win the girls’ division of the 8th A Shot For Life Challenge Wednesday night at Starland Sportsplex.
“Two hours was definitely more difficult than I expected,” said Bollin, a rising junior and Globe Super Team selection this past winter. “It took a lot of mental toughness to continue using the right form and continue making every single shot. When you’re shooting for two hours straight, it’s easy to get mentally lax.”
Ashland’s Kayla Madden (80.71) came in second, and Nauset’s Avery Burns (78.0) placed third among 17 competitors in a bustling yet social-distanced friendly gym.
The Challenge raised over $40,000 for cancer research. ASFL CEO, president, and founder Mike Slonina is thankful to have such remarkable support once again – particularly in a challenging and unprecedented year – and he was thrilled Wednesday just like he was Tuesday after the boys completed their version of the Challenge.
“I’m so grateful to all the players in the girls’ division of the A Shot For Life Family program that worked under extremely unusual circumstances to make this happen in a year where almost everything is getting canceled,” Slonina said. “It says so much about the perseverance of our program.”
Because there were 17 shooters, one contestant had to complete her portion of the Challenge earlier in the evening. That happened to be Madden, and she set the bar quite high. Of course the other shooters didn’t know her mark, so they had only their own results to worry about, and many managed to keep pace much of the way.
With 15 minutes remaining, five shooters were separated by less than a percentage point. Bollin and Burns continued to hit at a high clip and stay on track with Madden. After taking the lead with 20 minutes to go, Bollin kept cruising.
Her methodical and deliberate style paid dividends, just like Burns’s rapid-fire approach did for her. With five minutes remaining, Burns hit 15 of 16 3-pointers in a minute, but Bollin continued to calmly can shots, and eventually she outlasted the field.
“I think I improved in the second half tremendously,” Bollin said.
B-R coach Cheryl Seavey and her husband, Jim, had the best seats in the house to watch Bollin on their right and Matulonis on their left. Seavey was impressed by the way both performed, but she was even more impressed by their commitment to the cause.
“What a great opportunity for these young ladies to take part in such a tremendous event,” Seavey said.
Slonina, who dealt with a barrage of logistical challenges in the weeks leading up to the event, loves seeing everyone come together on the night of to watch their hard work come to fruition.
At the end of the night, he carved out time to thank the players specifically for their contributions, then he turned to the parents and expressed his gratitude as well. He was overjoyed to crown Bollin the champion, but he would have felt the same way handing the trophy to any of the participants in what he called a particularly intense and spirited event Wednesday evening.
“I don’t care if Shay never makes a jump shot again after this,” Slonina said. “She’s always a part of our program. I care much more about her as a person than as a player. I’m happy she won, but the reality is I have a connection to all 17 players.”