Superior's Lindstrom named News Tribune Player of the Year in girls basketball
Entering the twilight of her high school basketball career, only an extraordinary performance from Jessica Lindstrom could have surprised her teammates and coaches, who had grown accustomed to the senior’s dominance.
Lindstrom delivered during Superior’s postseason run last month.
It started in the sectional semifinals, when the 6-foot-1 center pulled down 25 rebounds against D.C. Everest and the Evergreens’ heralded 6-3 Division I recruit, Taylor Hodell, in a 50-46 victory. Two nights later, she grabbed 24 rebounds and scored 21 points in an 82-69 triumph over Neenah that sent the Spartans to Green Bay for the Division 1 state tournament.
There, Lindstrom was fouled on a putback with less than a second remaining in a semifinal against Mukwonago that was tied 49-49. She calmly buried both free throws to push Superior into the state title game, an eventual 73-52 defeat to Oak Creek that saddled the Spartans with a silver ball instead of the gold one they so desperately wanted.
But it did little to tarnish Lindstrom’s legacy.
“She’s a gamer,” Superior coach Phil Roe said of a player whose only speed is full speed. “She doesn’t just show up for games; she’s that intense in practices, too. I got to see that every day, which was pretty cool.”
It’s that no-holds-barred, almost reckless approach that leaves fans and foes alike shaking their heads in disbelief. When she’s not the tallest player on the court, Lindstrom compensates with a motor that never quits. She’s relentless around the basket, which helps to explain her per-game averages of 21.2 points and 17 rebounds this season.
Consequently, the Spartans’ career leader in points (2,065) and rebounds (1,501) is the News Tribune’s 2014 All-Area Player of the Year, just as she was in 2013 and 2012.
Lindstrom often says rebounding is a mindset, a conviction that loose balls belong to her no matter how tall the opponent.
“Even if they’re 6-4 or 6-5, I’ll try my best to get it,” she said.
More often than not, her best is good enough. That’s especially true, Roe said, during a fast-break drill the Spartans run frequently in practice. The player that gets the rebound, whether it’s a missed shot or a made one, stays in the game and starts a fast break the other way.
“There were times that Jessica stayed in the game for more than two minutes,” Roe said. “She wanted to stay in the game; she’s just so competitive.”
That competitive fire never wavered for Lindstrom, who, along with fellow senior Hailey Kontny, thrust the Spartans into uncharted territory. The past two seasons ended with state-tournament appearances, an oddity for a program that had qualified just once prior, in 1995. And before last month, Superior never had played in a state championship game.
Lindstrom, who is headed to Division I Wisconsin-Green Bay on an athletic scholarship, said she gets her feistiness from her family. With two older siblings — sister Lindsey is 6 years older and brother Austin is 3 — she had to fight for everything she got.
“My whole family is competitive,” Lindstrom said. “Nobody wants to lose.”
At the state tournament, her future college coach spoke glowingly of a player who chose the Phoenix over bigger, more celebrated schools.
“She’s got a motor,” Green Bay coach Kevin Borseth said. “You try to recruit kids that have motors, and Jessica has one. She just competes every second that she’s out there.”
A finalist for myriad Wisconsin player of the year awards, Lindstrom was named the state’s top senior post player and landed on the Associated Press All-State first team for the second year in a row.
Now, she turns her attention to one more softball campaign before setting her sights on Green Bay and college basketball.
Where the time went, Lindstrom has no idea.
“I feel like I was a freshman last year, which is really cliché to say, but it’s true,” Lindstrom said.
News Tribune girls basketball Players of the Year
Year Player School
2014 Jessica Lindstrom Superior
2013 Jessica Lindstrom Superior
2012 Jessica Lindstrom Superior
2011 Jessica Newman Barnum
2010 Katrina Newman Barnum
2009 Marisa Yernatich Duluth East
2008 Megan Myhre Barnum
2007 Colleen McKay Barnum
2006 Anna Bjorlin Hermantown
2005 Jenna Reinemann Duluth East
2004 Jolene Anderson South Shore
2003 Justine Axtell Barnum
2002 Justine Axtell Barnum
2001 Jackie Plesha Mesabi East
2000 Katie Pavlich Cloquet
1999 Meghan Overom Duluth Marshall
1998 Kim Toewe Grand Rapids
1997 Laura Hanson Hermantown
1996 Gina Perich Esko
1995 Anna Townsend Esko
1994 Sadie Suomala Mountain Iron-Buhl