Bridge still follows Hanson hoops team she once ledALEXANDRIA — Jenny Bridge has a basement full of trophies — but she would give them all back to have played in one state tournament basketball game.
By: Aaron Saunders, The Daily Republic
ALEXANDRIA — Jenny Bridge has a basement full of trophies — but she would give them all back to have played in one state tournament basketball game.
It has been 10 years since Bridge wore a Beavers uniform, but the 2003 Hanson High School graduate still has a connection with the team and the Alexandria community.
Bridge said she attends almost every game, and will be in attendance to watch the Beavers compete in the Class B state tournament, which starts today in Huron.
While Bridge never played in a state tournament game, she racked up a ton of individual awards.
Bridge was voted to the all-state basketball team three times, holds the school’s career-scoring record (1,834 points) and has the most 3-pointers made in a season (79) and career (303).
Highest among Bridge’s accomplishments as a high school basketball player was being named South Dakota Miss Basketball in 2003. She remains the only Hanson girls’ basketball player to win the award.
“I will give all the credit to my mom, my dad, my brother and the teammates I had in the past, because without them I would not have been as good as I was,” Bridge said. “In the five years I played at Hanson our record was 99-9. I just remember we always had so much determination when we went on the court.”
Bridge got her start in basketball with the help of her mother Julie, who was a three-time all-state basketball player for Avon, and her father Jim Bridge, the head coach of the Hanson girls’ basketball team.
As a youngster, Bridge played on a little toy hoop her parents gave her.
Before she knew it, she was in Massachusetts competing in a free-throw shooting contest at the age of 13.
Bridge said she spent countless hours in the gym shooting with her mother or father. She also remembered going to Northern State games with her parents, who are both graduates of the university.
“Growing up, we were always talking about sports,” Jenny said. “Whether it was basketball, football, baseball, NBA or NFL, it was just what we knew.”
No one knows Jenny Bridge’s basketball game better than her coach and father.
The elder Bridge said his daughter wasn’t the tallest, or most athletic, but she could flat-out shoot and handle the basketball.
As a junior in 2002, Jenny made 51 percent of her attempted 3-pointers, which ranks first among all Hanson players. Bridge also holds the single-game assists record (16) set in 1998, when she was an eighth-grader.
“She was a gym rat. She spent a lot of time shooting the basketball in the offseason,” Jim Bridge said. “You are not born to be a shooter, you have to develop that, and she put a lot of time in and fine-tuned her shot.”
Jenny Bridge played five years on varsity, all for her dad.
In 27 years at Hanson, Jim Bridge has compiled a win-loss record of 448-167.
Looking back on his time coaching his daughter, Jim said he did yell at her too much and would apologize to her after the season was over.
“I probably made her grandmas mad at me because I was probably too hard on her,” Jim Bridge said. “But she always said, ‘I know you had to be hard on me.’ … Jenny made me into a better coach because she would have good games in big games.”
While Jim thinks he may have been too difficult, Jenny says he was just being a good coach.
“Honestly, I don’t think it was that difficult. He would sometimes use me as an example, but I could take that constructive criticism,” she said. “If I could go back and have anyone coach me, it would be my dad. … I never got away with anything, he was the hardest on me, but he was one of the best coaches I ever had.”
Life after high school basketball
After finishing up her career at Hanson, Bridge went on to play collegiately at Dakota Wesleyan University.
In her first year at DWU, Bridge got the chance to go to the NAIA national tournament with the Tigers in the 2003-04 season.
Bridge played three years for the Tigers before transferring to the College of St. Mary as a senior in 2006-2007. Bridge was recruited to DWU by then-head coach Kevin Lein, who stepped down from the position after her freshman year. Lein stayed at DWU, but no longer coached the Tigers during Bridge’s sophomore and junior years.
When Bridge transferred out of Wesleyan, she did it to follow Lein, who took a job at St. Mary before her senior year.
Lein stepped down as the DWU basketball coach after the 2004 season and asked her to join his squad in Omaha, Neb., where he restarted his coaching career after a two-year break.
Bridge said Lein was the reason she chose to play for Dakota Wesleyan coming out of high school.
At the College of St. Mary, she averaged 10.6 points per game and shot 90.5 percent from the free-throw line.
Today, Bridge lives and works in Mitchell and follows the Hanson girls’ basketball team intently.
“I love watching my dad coach and seeing the girls succeed — it is fun to watch,” Jenny said. “I give him a lot of credit. He puts a lot of time and effort into his teams.”
Watching her old team
When Hanson plays Wall at 7:45 p.m. today at the Class B state tournament in Huron, Bridge will be there to watch her former team. Hanson is the third seed in the tournament, while Wall is the sixth seed.
Bridge had her opportunity to make the state tournament derailed twice in the region finals by Tripp-Delmont and Menno, and twice in the district championships by Mount Vernon. Bridge’s squad fell to Mount Vernon in her junior and senior years.
The losses to Mount Vernon were the only blemishes on Hanson’s record each season.
Because she did not have the opportunity to go to state, Bridge enjoys watching the Beavers and her dad succeed even more today. When the current Hanson squad qualified for the state this year, Bridge emailed the entire team to let them know how proud she was of them.
“We were disappointed our senior year after losing to Mount Vernon, because they were our rivals,” Bridge said. “I remember going to the state tournament and watching, and it hurt, but we were there to support Mount Vernon, because we wanted to be good losers as well as good winners.”
Hanson holds a 21-2 record headed into its second consecutive state tournament today. The school has never won a state girls’ basketball championship. Bridge will be rooting all weekend for the Beavers to get their first.
“ … For all the time and effort my dad put in, he deserves that one state championship,” she said. “I think they could win the whole thing this year.”