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Deadly from downtown

Dakota Wesleyan University guards Celeste Beck, left, and Amanda Hart, right, pose for a photo. They are both ranked nationally in the NAIA in three-point categories. (Aaron Saunders/Republic)

When the ball leaves the hand of Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball players Celeste Beck and Amanda Hart, they know right away whether or not the shot will go in.

They each say that when they are connecting from behind the three-point line, their confidence level is what keeps them shooting. This season, the shooters have helped the Tigers to an 18-9 record with most of their contributions in scoring coming on 3-pointers.

Both of their long-range shooting stats are among the best in comparison to other players at the NAIA Division II level.

"When it goes in, it feels good," Beck said, "and you want the ball more and my teammates are pretty good at knowing when me and Amanda are on fire."

Beck, a sophomore guard, has been draining threes this season at a mark of 50 percent, which ranks first in NAIA DII. She's hit 53 of 105 3-pointers this season.

Beck's journey to the top of the three-point charts began when she was in the third grade.

"When I was younger I was the water girl for (the Centerville) basketball team, and they usually showed me how to shoot the ball," Beck said. "I used to shoot with my elbow and the girls on the team told me I couldn't do that anymore. They told me to follow through like you are reaching your hand in the cookie jar."

Beck went to school and played varsity basketball for Centerville as an eighth-grader before transferring to Sioux Falls Roosevelt. While Beck began mastering her shot at the Class AA level with Roosevelt, Hart was working on her long-range game at the Class B level.

She got acquainted with her shooting stroke with a lot of repetition and time spent in the gym looking for perfection.

The junior guard who played at Hanson High School currently ranks third in total the three-point field goals made list with 82.

Hart broke DWU's record for 3-pointers made in a career earlier this season. The previous record was 249 held by Chase Walder, who played for the men's team. Hart now has 269.

"In high school, I concentrated on getting a quicker release," she said. "I spent a lot of time on the shooting gun."

Hart also credits her father, Curt, who is also DWU's athletic director, and her brother, Jon, the associate athletic director at Wesleyan. The Alexandria native said her brother is still the best shooter in the family.

With help from Beck and Hart, the DWU women have made their mark from three-point land this season. The Tigers rank first in three-point field goal percentage, shooting at a clip of 39.7 percent.

"It's not a surprise to me," Dakota Wesleyan coach Jason Christensen said. "Good shooters are good shooters. The three-point shot is definitely a difference-maker in the game. You can make a lot of runs when you are making threes."

The third-year head coach said he inherited Hart when he was hired, but remembers coaching against her when she played for Hanson and he was coaching in Mount Vernon. As for Beck, Christensen said he first saw her play in a Dakota Schoolers game after he got hired and she made six 3-pointers that night.

"When you are recruiting, you try to find out what your team needs and at the time we needed some scorers," Christensen said.

Both players are averaging 11.1 points per game this season for the Tigers, who are enjoying their best year under Christensen. The Tigers are 9-8 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference and travel to play Nebraska Wesleyan University at 2 p.m. Saturday in Lincoln, Neb., for a league game.