STATE TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: Seniors leave their mark at SHS
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Abby Clemons, Natalie Kintop and Alison Wainionpaa are wrapping up their basketball careers at Superior High School, but the three seniors view this season as a beginning rather than an end.
Years from now, when people talk about girls basketball in Superior, the seniors hope 2013 will be remembered as the year the legacy began.
“I feel honored to be on this team,” Wainionpaa said. “Everyone’s been saying this is the year to go (to state), but we hope this is just the beginning. I hope they make it next year too.”
The seniors have made their mark on the team this year. All three girls stress teamwork, especially on defense, and they went out of their way this season to build camaraderie.
“We’ve tried some different things,” said SHS coach Phil Roe. “We brought in Sam Wilson one time for Zumba and dancing, and Abby had the girls all do a Secret Santa. There’s a bunch of things that have been put in place to build the team chemistry together, and it’s worked. It’s fun seeing all these girls work together.”
The seniors also took on key roles during Superior’s playoff run.
Abby Clemons, in particular stepped forward when the team needed a leader.
During the regular season, Clemons averaged 5.1 points per game. She upped that number to 7.5 during the regional tournament, and then to 12.5 during the sectionals.
In Superior’s sectional final game with Oshkosh North, Clemons went 4-for-5 from the 3-point line to help the Spartans earn their first trip to state since 1995.
“I just wanted to win, like really bad,” Clemons said. “Obviously other teams are going to realize they have to shut down Jessica (Lindstrom) and Hailey (Kontny), so they’re playing more pressure on them; and that leaves me and Alyssa and Alison open. But then they also realize that Alyssa, I mean she hits those threes like crazy, so they’re putting more pressure on her, and it just leaves me wide open on the threes.”
Clemons spent her summer flipping tires to train for the basketball season. She also worked to improve her defensive footwork and participated in the Bigger, Faster, Stronger program.
“Abby’s quiet, but she’s focused. She works hard and she leads by example,” Kintop said.
Kintop is Superior’s go-to player when the team needs a speedy defender. She has 21 steals this season coming off the bench.
“Defense, I know that’s my strongest component for basketball,” Kintop said. “So I use it the best I can.
“I guess I don’t really think about it a lot when I’m playing defense. I don’t ever over-anticipate or anything. So I think that’s why I do it well; I just kind of watch the ball and go with that. I don’t get too nervous or hyped-up.”
Kintop has the opposite effect on opponents. She leaves players flustered and changes the pace of the game when she’s on the floor.
“Natalie is a defensive sparkplug,” Roe said. “And Alison has always played great defense.”
Wainionpaa has the highest field goal percentage on the team, shooting .620, and is the third leading rebounder. She feels defense is her most important contribution, however.
“I’d say defensively that’s my role for the team,” Wainionpaa said. “We have Hailey Kontny and Jessica Lindstrom who can score the points, but I’ll take that shot that I know that I will make.”
The seniors will play their final game in a Spartan uniform today or Saturday. They’re hoping for a win, but either way, they’re happy with what the team has accomplished this season.
“We started out as 15 girls in fifth-grade, and now all that’s left is the three of us,” Wainionpaa said. “Even looking back at our traveling team pictures, it’s so surreal to think that our senior year we finally get to go to state.”
“We’re just thankful to be going and thankful for all the support that we’ve gotten,” Kintop said. “Especially our parents.”