Charlee Bailey is growing up in a basketball family and has played the game since first grade.
The 12-year-old won her girls 13 and younger division at Sunday's NBA Jr. Skills Competition at The Linc.
She said she likes "everything" about the sport and wants to keep improving.
"I'm kind of surprised because I was very nervous," she said after the awards ceremony. "When I was shooting, my hands were shaking."
In the one-minute timed event to dribble through cones and choose shots worth different points, she scored 29 points. That's the most of anyone, boy or girl, during Sunday's competition. It's also one point shy of what she scored last year.
This is the third time Charlee has competed and the third time she's advanced to the regional competition, held April 26 this year in Lee's Summit. She's hoping the third time will be the charm — the year she makes it to nationals.
The national competition is an all-expense-paid trip to New York City. Last year, Charlee was one point away from making it. Her older brother, Jackson, has already competed in the national competition, placing second.
"(Charlee) knows what it takes to get there, and she wants to get there," said Trisha Bailey, Charlee's mother. She said her daughter's favorite part of the competitions has been the friends she's made.
This is the third year the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department has sponsored the event locally. Thirty-seven competitors were in this year's event, more than in the past two years, making the competition to advance stiffer.
Of the 37 competitors, 12 will advance to regionals — the top three finishers in each of the four divisions.
As the competition was taking place, televisions outside the gym were reporting about the helicopter crash that killed former NBA star Kobe Bryant and eight others. The news spread quickly at the event.
"We're very, very sad," Trisha Bailey said.
Another winner Sunday was Wardsville resident Evan McCullough, 12, who won the boys 13 and younger division, scoring 25 points — mostly with the higher 4-point shots.
He's played the game since he was 5 and placed third in regionals last year. This year, he wants to win.
For Evan, his love of the game is simple: "Shooting the ball and watching it go in."
His father, Justin, said he and wife Stacy would support him as long as he wants to play.
"We're proud of his commitment and enthusiasm for competing," Justin McCullough said.