Ruff takes another shot at state free throw contest

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Mackenzy Ruff has won the Knights of Columbus Council 8178 free throw contest every year since she was 10. She’s also gone on to state each year, a feat she hopes to continue in 2018, in her final year of eligibility. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times 

“I do one dribble before I shoot, then I take a moment to breathe. I’ve found that one dribble is enough for me to know what I’m doing.”

Becoming a perfect free throw shooter isn’t easy. Mackenzy Ruff is coming close, though.

The MFL MarMac freshman has won the Knights of Columbus Council 8178 local free throw contest each year since she was 10 years old. Her success hasn’t ended there.

“Every year, I’ve gone to state,” she said.

This year, which is her last of eligibility, Ruff hopes to make it there again.

The simple desire to improve her basketball skills is what drove Ruff to begin competing.

“I knew I wanted to work on my shot,” she shared. “I thought it would help me.”

Ruff credited her parents, Bob and Utoni, as well as her coaches over the years, with helping her develop her shot. 

“My coaches always support me, and my teammates do too,” she said. “They look at my shot and tell me if I’m doing anything wrong.”

She also spent significant time honing her skills during practice sessions at Old School Rec, in Luana.

“I finally got into a routine,” she said.

At the local competition, participants are tasked with shooting 15 free throws in a row. Those who make the most, win. The top finishers go on to compete at districts, where the number of free throw attempts increases to 25. That amount remains the same for both the regional and state contests, explained Ruff.

Out of all the years she’s competed, Ruff said one year, in particular, stood out.

She was 12, in her third year at state. After making 23 of 25 free throws, a competitor hit the same amount, sending the two into a shoot-off.

“I made five of five,” Ruff said. “She missed her last one.”

What made the difference?

“I feel like the pressure helped,” she remarked.

Confidence is also key.

“I’m proud of myself,” Ruff said. “My goal was to get back to state every year. I have the confidence I can.”

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