COLUMBIA — Chris Duncan looked on with pride. Dressed in a beige suit and a maroon tie, the Stephens College women's basketball coach stared at the conference championship banners adorning Columbia College’s Southwell Complex before the Stars' game against the Cougars on Saturday.
“I looked over and saw the women’s conference champions (banners), and I was a part of every single one of those except one,” Duncan said. “... You go, ‘Those are good accomplishments.’ I want my girls to see those things and think, ‘Hey, maybe one day we’ll be able to do something like this.’ ”
The Columbia College women's basketball team, No. 17 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics rankings, improved to 20-5 and 13-0 in America Midwest Conference play with its 85-64 victory over Stephens College on Saturday, its 16th straight win.
Senior Lily Abreu led the Cougars in scoring with 21 points, and Heather English had 16. Jessica McConnell's 15 points led the Stars (5-19, 2-11 AMC).
On the other side of the court, Columbia College head coach Mike Davis looked on with pride, too. Wearing a pink tie for Columbia College’s Relay for Life Pink-Out, Davis watched his team beat Stephens 85-64 behind 21 points from senior guard Lily Abreu.
After the game, Davis said his former assistant had moved on in his coaching journey. Duncan started as a student assistant under Davis in 2004. An Oklahoma native, Duncan graduated from Columbia College in 2007. He left the Cougars after last season to take over at Stephens.
“He’s a big boy, and he’s doing a good job with the team,” Davis said. “There’s no advice that he needs from me. He’s made his own philosophy on coaching.”
Duncan said his new position hasn’t changed his relationship with Davis, at least before tipoff.
“I look at him as a brother," Duncan said. "But when there’s a game, it’s on.”
In January, the Cougars beat the Stars 63-43, the closest margin Stephens has been able to manage against Columbia College. The Stars are 0-11 all time in the series. While they didn't get any closer Saturday, Duncan said he doesn’t think his team took a step backward.
“Even though it was a 21-point game, we never quit working,” Duncan said. “We could’ve thrown in the towel in the first (half) thinking, ‘They’re going to kill us.’ But they never quit fighting.”
Columbia College forward Julie Teeple said she has noticed a change in the Stars under Duncan.
“You can tell a big difference from last year, and I think it’s because of him,” Teeple said.
Teeple, a fifth-year senior, said Duncan was the type of coach the team could always rely on, with his family constantly inviting players over for dinner and supporting them emotionally.
“He’s a great guy. If any of us had a problem, we could give him a call,” Teeple said.
But once the game started, Teeple (11 points, nine rebounds) and the Cougars were all business against the Stars.
“I think they’re more of a rival now more than ever with him being over there,” Teeple said. “Maybe there was a little bit more of a motivation to kick it in-gear and beat them by as much as we could.”
After the game, Duncan said he felt nostalgic but was focused on how to improve his team.
“The bottom line is this is my family now,” Duncan said about the Stars.
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