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Pleasant surprise: New England 9-year-old Matthew Bock reaches Elks Hoop Shoot National Finals

Nine-year-old Matthew Bock lives on a farm near Amidon.

Lately, Bock hasn’t had to do too many chores.

Bock helped win a free vacation for his parents — Kevin and Rachel — as he claimed a spot in the Elks Hoop Shoot National Finals, which begins today in Springfield, Mass.

“It’s just a huge relief, because I knew I’m going to nationals,” Bock said. “This is a huge deal.”

Though Bock reached the national finals, it wasn’t an easy journey.

Since Bock has to drive the 22 miles from Amidon to New England, he doesn’t have the luxury of practicing at a regulation basketball court every day.

There were times during the winter Bock practiced in his driveway with boots and a heavy jacket on. Not exactly the ideal apparel for basketball.

“A lot of times he’s been in snow boots and a winter coat practicing outside,” Rachel said. “We do have a shop, but it is a farm shop. It’s greasy and dirty in there. It’s been a lot of dedication.”

In the 8- to 9-year-old division of the Elks Hoop Shoot, contestants are allowed to stand about four feet in front of the free-throw line.

Yet, Bock stands one foot in front of the free-throw line.

The reason? He has trouble making free throws consistently when he stands closer to the basket. Plus he wants to shoot like the high school kids — especially his cousin and former New England High School player Clarence Binstock.

“He’s given me so many tips and I give him a lot of credit because he pushed me and pushed me every step of the way,” Bock said with a smile.

Binstock, who was a two-time all-Region 7 player during his four-year high school career with the Tigers, shot 82 percent from the free-throw line.

The former New England standout said the relationship between him and Bock is like brothers.

“He’s exactly like me and it kind of scary actually,” Binstock said with a laugh. “He wants to go to (Dickinson State basketball) games or high school basketball games. We are basically two peas in a pod.”

Rachel Bock agreed and said the two sometimes quarrel like siblings.

“They are around each other all the time and sometimes they bicker like brothers,” she said.

Through the bickering and acting like brothers, Binstock couldn’t be happier for Bock.

“It’s pretty awesome and it’s a great sight really because if you asked him about any game, he could tell you the score or who had how many points,” Binstock said. “It’s nice to see a kid like that.”

Making it to nationals was the furthest idea from Bock’s mind when he stepped on the court in Dickinson.

After winning in Dickinson, Bock went on to win the state finals making 21 of 25 free throws in Jamestown. He qualified for the national finals after winning the regionals with 20 free throws in Rapid City (S.D.).

“Just getting out of Dickinson is what gave me a lot of confidence,” Bock said. “After Dickinson, I was in shock and once I got to Jamestown I felt I had so much confidence.”