WEST HAVEN -- If a basketball game comes down to free throws, Josie Williams and Cameron Saunders have it all wrapped up.
Williams, 11, and Saunders, 12, recently returned from the Elks Hoop Shoot West Regional in Las Vegas, Nev., where they placed third and second, respectively, in their age groups after winning a plethora of prior contests.
Williams, a West Haven elementary student made 14 out of 25 free throws to garner her third place and Saunders, an Adele C. Young Intermediate School student from Willard, made 21 out of 25 to place second.
To get to the regional, which pitted the state winners from Arizona, Nevada, California and Utah against each other for a spot to the finals in Massachusetts, both Saunders and Williams had to win four free-throw events, starting at their school level with winners moving up to each event. Both were crowned the Utah State Elks Hoops Shoot Champions, which led to their berth at the Las Vegas competition.
Saunders averaged 86 percent from the line throughout the contests, a percentage that would rival the best Utah Jazz player's percentage.
"I just love basketball so much," Saunders said. "And I wanted to see how far I could go."
He consistently made 21 out of 25 baskets, starting with his school contest, moving to a Northern Utah Regional, and then to a district competition. He broke the pattern by shooting 23 to win his state title, and then shot 21 again at the Vegas competition.
Williams averaged 69 percent from the line through the contest. Starting with her school competition, where she made 7 out of 10 of the free throws to win, Williams then moved on to the Utah Northern Region competition, where she shot 17 out of 25. At the district competition held in Tooele last month, Williams made 19 out of 25 free throws to qualify for the state contest.
"I like how you can just take your time and just shoot and have fun with it, and not have to really do anything besides shoot," Williams said.
At the state contest she made 19 out of 25 again, which is how she found herself in Las Vegas, shooting against girls from across the West.
"It was really fun at the competition," said Williams. "We got a warm-up suit and there was a lot of pressure, but it was a great experience. It was a great opportunity."
Both Williams and Saunders play for comp teams and said that they practice their free throws often.