MOUNT VERNON — Consistency and concentration under all levels of pressure. Fredericktown Elementary student Morgan Spitler is a 9-year-old who knows that it takes those qualities and more to be a good foul-shooter.
“Just stay calm,” said Spitler. “Relax and just have fun.”
Morgan, daughter of former Mount Vernon football coach Scott Spitler, represented Elks Lodge No. 140 in Mount Vernon in last month’s district finals of the Elks National Foul Shooting Competition in Sandusky. She hit 16 of 25 shots, one shy of the winner, but good enough for second place and a trip to the state finals as an alternate on Saturday at Groveport-Madison High School.
After Morgan sank her 16 shots, she had to watch nervously as one competitor after another took aim at her total.
“(The winner) shot last and I was first,” said Morgan, who plays for the Lady Bobcats in the Upward Basketball League in Mount Vernon. “There were 10 other girls, so I felt really nervous because I thought a lot of people had some really good shots and I thought that (the eventual winner) wasn’t really ahead of me. It was a really close match.”
Morgan’s abilities run in her family. Her mother, Tiffany Spitler, was a member of the state champion McConnellsville (Pa.) High School basketball team that went undefeated in 1991. She was third in the nation for three years in the old NBA Hot Shot Competition.
“I just wanted my daughter to experience what I did when I was growing up,” said Tiffany Spitler, who also competed in the Elks Foul Shooting as a youngster. “This was Morgan’s first year competing. She walked into, Sandusky High School, saw all the trophies and the medals and said, ‘I’m going to take one of these trophies home.’ I thought it was good to be confident, not thinking she would do so well.”
“When I saw those trophies, I thought it was really cool,” said Morgan. “That gave me confidence.”
The younger Spitler spent much time practicing in the gym under her mother’s tutelege. She brought her mom’s style of shooting to Sandusky.
“Shoot high and slow,” said Morgan. “I take my time. No dribbles. I take a deep breath in and out and then, you’ll do really good.”
It’s easy for most 9-year-olds to get rattled in front of a big crowd in a strange gym and that is what makes Morgan’s achievement so remarkable.
“I just focus on the basket and just pretend that it’s just my mom and I practicing,” she said.