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Duluth East graduate challenges Mayor Ness to free throw competition

Mayor Ness takes a shot and secures his lead in the contest against Mat Lochner. Final score of the competition was 8-4.

Put a 39-year-old mayor who graduated from Central High School in a gym with an 18-year-old East High School graduate. Now add a basketball.

Wednesday, July 10, Duluth Mayor and local celebrity Don Ness took on former Duluth East varsity basketball starter and grad Mat Lochner in a free throw competition at the YMCA gym.

It started with a tweet.

"I would like to challenge @Ness_Duluth to a free throw contest at the YMCA Wednesday morning. Retweet if you're up to the challenge," Lochner tweeted on June 24.

Lochner's tweet received 45 retweets, almost all of them before Ness had a chance to respond. He said that he sent the tweet because he thought it was funny, but he didn't expect an answer at all.

Ness, being no novice to free throw contests and locals tweeting at him, not only replied to Lochner's request but also agreed to the competition and set up a date for the event.

"I liked his enthusiasm and his initiative. Plus it took all of 10 minutes, so the time commitment was minimal," said Ness.

Ness and Lochner met at the YMCA on July 10 at 8:30 in the morning and started shooting right away. By the end, Ness had succeeded 8-4.

"My streak is intact," continued Ness. "I think I've done about 10-15 free throw contests since I became mayor and I have yet to lose."

The contest also attracted a small crowd. Ten or so spectators watched the former varsity basketball player take on the mayor.

Among the crowd was Lucas Rollo, a friend of Lochner's and another recent Duluth East High School graduate.

"I think it shows that the mayor has a lot of character by agreeing to this," said Rollo. "Not to mention it is fun to watch Mat lose to a 39-year-old."

Alex Smith, another spectator and a 2012 Duluth East graduate, also went to support his friend and see the mayor in the free throw competition.

"I was blown away," explained Smith. "Obviously, Mat stood strong but had a very minimal chance of winning. Mayor Ness not only runs the city, he runs the court."