To understand why Neillsville’s Jenny Lindner is considered one of the top girls basketball players in the state, look no further than the second quarter of the Warriors’ matchup with East Troy in a WIAA Division 3 state semifinal earlier this month.
In that eight-minute span on the Resch Center floor, the junior guard took over the game hitting three of her five shot attempts and went 8 of 9 from the free throw line, scoring 16 of her team’s 18 points in the quarter as she took advantage of East Troy’s man-to-man defense. She also had a pair of steals, a block and was a force overall on both ends of the court to end a dominant first half in which she scored 22 points and led her team to a 32-28 lead at the break.
“I just wanted the ball in my hands,” said Lindner, a second-team Associated Press all-state selection this season. “I had momentum going and the girls knew that and they gave me the ball. They set the screens and everything. I just worked my hardest right there.”
Neillsville ultimately lost the game as East Troy switched to an aggressive 2-3 zone which was effective in limiting the number of opportunities for Lindner in the second half. Few opponents have been as fortunate, as Lindner is a major reason why the Warriors have posted a 78-2 record over the past three years, reached the state tournament twice and captured the Division 4 title last year.
This season Lindner averaged 15.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game — numbers that could have been higher if she wasn’t pulled from a number of games in the second half in blowout victories during the the regular season. For her performance, Lindner has been selected as the Gannett Central Wisconsin Media girls basketball player of the year.
The first team also consists of Wausau West sophomore guard Jasmin Samz, the co-player of the year in the Wisconsin Valley Conference; Adams-Friendship sophomore Emma Roenneburg, who was the South Central Conference player of the year for the second straight season; junior Jaimee Pitt, who led Amherst in five categories; and Assumption freshman Gena Grundhoffer, who started the year coming off the bench and ended it as an impact player for the Division 5 state champions.
Assumption’s Joe Birkhauser, who led the Royals to their first state appearance eight years and the first WIAA title in the program’s history, is the coach of the year.
Lindner was named the top player Cloverbelt Conference East Division for the third straight season, and helped the Warriors build a 54-game winning streak that ended against East Troy — just hours before New London’s 68-game run ended against New Berlin Eisenhower.
“It was remarkable. It’s a big accomplishment, but we didn’t really look at the streak. We just played one game at a time and put everything out on that one game,” Lindner said.
The season-ending loss has sparked a fire as Linder — a Division 1 recruit who has narrowed her choices to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and UW-Green Bay — gave herself a few days off after the East Troy game before she was back in the gym shooting and working on her overall game. Lindner says Neillsville’s focus is on building a new streak, and returning to the state tournament.
“This is going to make us come back even stronger next year,” Lindner said. “We know what it feels like to lose and we don’t want that feeling again.”
Tim Johnson can be reached at 715-845-0731. Find him on Twitter as @timmyjo11