They say practice makes perfect, but hitting 15 consecutive free throws – a perfect score when competing to get to the COUNTRY Financial 3-Point Shootout – has never been accomplished, to my understanding. But Heyworth High School junior Colin McCubbins tried, not for perfection, but to try for as many threes in 45 seconds as possible when he competed in this event for Illinois High School Association Class 2A players when the opening round of the event was held at Carver Arena in Peoria Civic Center on Thursday, March 8.

Shooting for 45 minutes a day at Heyworth Grade School has been what effort Colin has put in to get a step closer to competing for the “King of the Hill” title in Class 2A. He’s also put in time shooting after practices, explained his father, Scott, a former HHS player from the late 1980s himself. Scott said his son has been getting individual instruction from Heyworth Junior High School head basketball coach Lyndon Jason. It has been rigorous from the way Scott McCubbins describes how his son has been working on it. Scott’s younger brother, Ryan, also wore a Hornets jersey in the mid-90s.

“He’s a much better shooter than either I or my brother was,” Scott McCubbins confessed. “He’s self-driven – he spends hours in the summer working on his shot, so he’s done a good job working hard for this.”

Colin’s mother, Scott’s wife, Lori McCubbins, admitted to being less nervous at this event than she was watching her son go through Sectionals and then Regionals to get to this point. At Regionals, Colin sank 10-of-15 and at Sectionals, he sank 9-of-15. At Sectionals, it took a shootout to determine a winner. At Sectionals, Scott hit six baskets from the wings to get him here.

The McCubbins clan was well represented as they waited for Colin’s turn to sink as many of 15 shots as possible. In addition to his folks, also on hand in the stands were his sister, Karlie, an HHS freshman; Paternal grandparents Danny and Carole McCubbins; and young cousins Chase McCubbins and Brody Allen. Brody is the son of Danny and Carole’s daughter.

Karlie is a member of HHS’ Volleyball team, and said she and her brother “like to support each other. It’s what we do for each other.”

As Colin completed each of the three stations shooting five basketballs during the prelim, his family was, from my thinking, very quiet. No cheering. Not a sound. Grandmother Carole McCubbins had a simple explanation for her silence. “I couldn’t breathe,” she explained, for those 45 seconds her oldest grandson raced from station to station firing away.

Her husband, Danny, stayed quiet too, as a means of remaining calm. “He didn’t make any mistakes,” Danny said of his grandson’s effort.

The family watched, with Scott taking video while Colin made the first five on the rack from right wing go in when he began and from there, sank others in each of the remaining racks to achieve the final total. Colin said was nice to have family turn out for his opening round at the shootout. There are only a handful of folks who turn out for these events which start around 5p.m. on Thursdays before the semifinals begin on Friday, so Colin said he was happy to have friends coming then, so it should be a bit bigger.”

Colin got to the second round of the Shootout held Friday following the first Class 1A semifinal game of the day between Sterling Newman Central Catholic and Annawan. The other three finalists were: Mitch McNutt from Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley; Marcus Williams from Chicago’s Collins High School; and Billy Samano from Niles High School. When Friday’s competition was over, Colin had emerged on top hitting an astounding 11-of-15, qualifying him for Saturday’s “King Of The Hill” Contest from Class 2A. Samano came in second with 7, followed by Williams’ 6, and 4 from McNutt.

Colin and Class 1A “King Of The Hill” competitor Clinton Richardson representing Norris City-Omaha-Enfield now await their Class 3A and 4A opponents.

At a news conference held Friday for 2A shooters afterward, Colin told reporters, “I can’t put into words what it means to be here.” During this past week leading up the “King Of The Hill” competition, Colin spent it in preparation for the big day, which will take place Saturday at approximately 12:45p.m. following the 3rd place game for Class 3A teams.

Danny McCubbins said his grandson had improving his shooting from the right wing position and the top of the key. Danny’s wife, Carole, said she was shaking and cried “as soon as he made the last basket.” Nancy Lynch, Colin’s maternal grandmother, said her nervousness about the event doesn’t kick in until Colin starts shooting. “I’m just happy for him,” she said.

“All his hard work had paid off,” Lori McCubbins said of her son’s effort. “I knew he could do it.”

Danny McCubbins also observed Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day, intimating not just skill but a little luck, too, might help his grandson this weekend. We will all have to see if he’s right about that.

How Others Finished: Class 2A preliminary scores for these boys on Thursday included: McNutt, GCMS, 11; Williams, Chicago Collins, 10, Samano, Niles, 10; and McCubbins, 10. Dylan Smith, a senior from El Paso Gridley was the only other McLean County participated in Class 2A, who sank 9 shots.

Class 1A participants, their school, and how many shot they made included: Matthew Nunamaker, Ridgeview, 5, and Tyler Grimsley, Lexington, 6.

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