Ayyub Ali, a fourth-grader at Hillsmere Elementary in Annapolis, shot 21 of 25 free throws Saturday to place fourth in the 8-to-9-year-old division of the National Hoop Shoot Championships in Springfield, Mass.

Ali, 9, won local contests as well as the district and state titles for the second straight year.

After finishing third in last year's regional, the youngster won the crown by shooting 21 of 25 in this year's competition in Charleston, W.Va.

The win helped him to become one of 12 regional titliststo reach the finals.

The event was part of a Hall of Fame celebration, which included former Boston Celtics stars Dave Cowens and NateArchibald as guest speakers.

"My goal was to get to Massachusettsthis year, and it was exciting," Ali said. "I wish the contest was going on for another week. I wanted to win, but that's OK."

His father, Abdur Ali, was slightly disappointed, but not in his son.

"There was a celebration going on outside the arena and the noise from the guns they were firing shook the gym as Ayyub was shooting the shots he missed," he said.

"But over 1.75 million kids entered in his age group, so finishing fourth is quite an accomplishment. I'm proud of him, and he's happy with the results and ready to make the trip again next year."

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