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story.lead_photo.caption Maddy Larkin, 11, shows off her Jr. NBA Skills Challenge National Champion basketball and trophy at The Linc. Larkin won the 2019 Skills Challenge girls 11 and under category in New York City. Photo by Greta Cross / News Tribune.

After years of hard work and practice, 11-year-old Maddy Larkin became the first Jefferson City child to win the Jr. NBA Skills Challenge finals last month.

Larkin, a seventh-grader at St. Joseph Cathedral School, won the Jr. NBA Skills Challenge finals for the girls 11 and under division in New York City last month.

During the Jr. NBA Skills Challenge, participants garner points by showing off their dribbling, shooting and rebounding skills.

"It just feels good to know that you won after you have done so much to get there and be able to win the whole thing," Larkin said.

While a Jefferson City child has competed in finals the last three years, Larkin is the first one to win a division, said Steve Schellman, youth sports program manager for the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.

Consistency, practice and strategy were keys to her success, Larkin said.

During warm-ups before the competition, Larkin said, she had to adjust to the court and the new ball, especially since her strategy was to hit the backboard just right to make a basket.

"Definitely come up with a strategy because if you don't know what you're doing, you will just go different places and not know exactly what to do because you're just running around the whole place and just shooting," she said. "If you have a strategy, you know what you're going to do so it's easier to practice and all of that."

Larkin received the all-expense-paid trip to New York to compete in the finals after she took first place in the February regionals in Indianapolis. She earned second place at the Parks department's Jr. NBA Skills Challenge in January.

Along with sight-seeing in New York City, Larkin watched the National Basketball Association draft and met several draftees.

Larkin said her favorite NBA draftee she met was Zion Williamson, with the New Orleans Pelicans. She also met Bol Bol, with the Denver Nuggets.

"It's cool to know they're in the NBA now so I got to meet an NBA player, which I've never done before," she said.

Larkin has been playing basketball since second grade, getting inspiration from Stephen Curry, with the Golden State Warriors, and Sophie Cunningham, with the Phoenix Mercury.

Larkin plays for the Central Missouri Lady Knights and St. Joseph Cathedral School's PAL (Parochial Athletic League) basketball.

Along with basketball, Larkin also plays softball and soccer.

Mike Larkin, Maddy's father, said he was proud of what his daughter has accomplished both on and off the basketball court.

"What I'm most proud of is how hard she worked at it," he said. "Whether it be on a basketball court, a softball field, a soccer field or a classroom, Maddy approaches life like, 'OK, this is my job and this is what I'm supposed to do, and I'm going to do it well.' She sets a very high bar for herself."

Maddy was not the only Jefferson City child to compete in finals this year. Maxon Fischer, a fifth-grader at Lawson Elementary School, placed seventh in the boys 11 and under division.

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