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Free throws benefit Stephens basketball team

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 | 7:30 p.m. CDT; updated 8:17 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Samantha Stirmlinger, center, rebounds a free-throw from Kelsey Creed, left, as Jessica McConnell, right, records her score for the Stephens College Shoot-A-Thon on Wednesday. Coach Chris Duncan said they hope to raise at least $3,600 to go toward practice and travel gear.

COLUMBIA — Bounce, bounce, bounce, spin, shoot, swoosh.

The rhythmic sound of Kelsey Creed's free-throw routine echoes through Silverthorne Arena. She's not just practicing her shots, she's raising money for her team.

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Wednesday, the Stephens basketball team participated in a shoot-a-thon to raise money for its 2012-13 season. First-year coach Chris Duncan said funds would go for new balls, shoes, travel expenses and practice gear, including a rebounding machine.

A month ago, players mailed out letters asking friends, family and Columbia businesses for either a certain amount per basket they made or a set donation. Donations ranged from $1 to $2 per free throw and $3 to $8 per 3-point shot. Hopes are to raise at least $3,600.

Starting at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, 12 members of the team took the court, shooting 100 free throws and 25 3-pointers. Duncan said he wasn't worried about his player's endurance. They shoot at least 1,000 shots a week in practice. He said the Stars have drastically improved their shooting in the past week.

Stephens averaged 68 percent from the free-throw line at the start of the season but is now averaging nearly 85 percent.

"It's nice to sit in your office and be able to hear the sound of the balls swooshing through the net all of the time," Duncan said.

The team finished the shoot-a-thon well, making 892 out of 1,200 free throws. The team also made 129 out of 275  3-pointers.

Creed, a freshman guard on the team, said she was excited about the fundraiser.

"We're making money, and that's all that matters," she said.

After making 93 out of 100 free throws and 14 of her 25  3-pointers, senior Jessica McConnell said she was happy her performance could help the team raise money.

"It sounds cheesy, but Stephens is like a family," McConnell said.

She played basketball for the Stars as a freshman but then transferred to another school her sophomore year. After a year away from Stephens, McConnell returned. She said she missed the unique, tight-knit atmosphere she had found at Stephens.

McConnell said she was excited to see where the team would go this season.

Duncan is already working the players hard. The Stars will start full-team practices on Monday, two weeks earlier than last season's team hit the court. The team began conditioning on Aug. 22.

"We've got a pretty young team this year, but the senior girls are great leaders," Duncan said.

Stephens will kick off its basketball season at 5 p.m. Nov. 6, when the team plays Central Methodist University in Fayette.


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