Sarah Berube is a fifth grader at Warwick Neck Elementary School who loves playing basketball.
The daughter of Norman and Melissa Berube, 11-year-old Sarah enjoys competing at various levels all over the state, including the Catholic Athletic League when she helped lead St. Kevin’s of Warwick to the 2019 state title.
However, none of the competitions she ever entered had as much pressure-packed moments like Saturday’s annual New England Elks Hoop Shootout held at Deering High School in Portland, Maine.
Berube, who is the four-time Rhode Island State Elks Hoop Shoot Champion, represented the Tri-City Elks on West Shore Road and hoped to become Lodge 14’s first-ever New England champ and earn a berth in the prestigious national event in Chicago next month.
She was paired with six state champions in the division for girls ages 10-11. Each player would get 25 shots and the one who swished the most buckets would thus be declared the NE champ and move on to the nationals.
It was Berube’s fourth straight trip to the New England event and people all around Warwick wished her well in hopes that she’d become the first-ever local winner and head on to the nationals.
However, Kaylee Bagley – the Maine state champion – buried 20 of her 25 shots and thus won the overall title among girls ages 10-11.
Berube, though, emerged as the New England Champion runner-up after winning a heart-thumping double shootout vs. Massachusetts state champion Peyton DiBiasio.
Berube and DiBiasio, as former Tri-City Exalter Ruler Steve Lagesse – who is the Elks State Hoop Shoot Chairman – tied for second and thus had to have a special shootout to determine second and third place.
So there was Berube – and DiBiasio of course – in the center of all activity inside Deering High’s gym which was overflowing with spectators – focusing their eyes on two 11-year-old girls who wanted that second place trophy.
Both girls took five shots each in the shutout and made four each but were tied again, so, as Lagesse said, “They had to shoot again.”
Berube, who showed what Lagesse called “absolutely amazing confidence under huge pressure, canned all five shots and broke the deadlock, as DiBiasio was only able to hit three of her five shots.
“She was amazing and I’m thrilled she won the shootout,” Lagesse went on. “Every Elk Rhode Island is proud of what Sarah accomplished on the big stage.”
Her mother – who people like Lagesse said “was probably more nervous than her daughter during the shootout” – offered, “We are very proud of Sarah and her ability to stay focused in such a tense situation and in front of a packed crowd. Even the (18) boys finalists watched the special shootout.”
It was her highest finish ever in the New England Hoop Shoot and first time Tri-City representative brought home a regional trophy.
Meanwhile, Leo Blanchette – the top-ranking Elk in Rhode Island who is appointed by the National Grand Lodge and was in Portland Saturday – was thrilled for Berube and her family.
“Elks all over the country are proud of the Hoop Shoot,” Blanchette offered. “We have over 1.5-millions boys and girls competing every year. It’s one of our great community service programs and for someone like Sarah to emerge as the New England runner-up is a huge accomplishment. We are very proud of Sarah – and all our contestants, as well.”