Bridge exhibiting picture-perfect shooting form shooting a three-pointer in a game in The World’s Only Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota
Sporting a three-point field-goal shooting percentage that most players wish they had for two-point field goals and a shooting range reminiscent of Stephen Curry’s, former Alexandria (South Dakota) Hanson High School basketball shooting guard Jenny Bridge definitely lit it up from long range.
During her five-year varsity career from 1998 to 2002, the 5-foot-7 Bridge connected on 49.7 percent of her three-point field-goal attempts (made 303-of-622 attempts), which still stands as the record in the NFHS’ National High School Sports Record Book. In addition, her three-point shooting percentages from 2002 (51.4 percent) and 2001 (50.4 percent) rank fifth and ninth, respectively, in the single-season category.
The Beavers girls basketball program had a family affair vibe to it during Bridge’s career, as she was coached by her father, Jim Bridge. According to Jenny, lack of confidence in shooting long-range shots was never a limiting factor for her.
“I never really had a favorite shooting spot, per se, but I loved being able to shoot two to four feet behind the three-point line and letting it fly,” Bridge said. “I was confident in my shot and if teams left me open that far out, I would shoot it! It was also fun hearing reactions from the crowd when you’re that far out.”
Like many shooters, Bridge was a self-described gym rat who worked hard to perfect her shooting. The family connection expanded as both of her parents participated in that effort.
“I spent countless hours in the gym and I give a lot of credit to my mom and dad,” Bridge began. “I was fortunate enough to have parents who were always willing to take time out of their day to come to the gym with me and to rebound for me. Shooting is repetition and if there was a game in which I had an off-night or I wasn’t happy with my performance, I would stay after the game and my mom would rebound for me until I felt comfortable again. Nowadays, it doesn’t seem like kids put in the time to practice their shooting, which is something I value. I also valued the constructive criticism from my parents as they helped me perfect my shot.”
During her career, Bridge collected 1,834 points, 476 assists, 375 rebounds and 183 steals, and made 87 percent of her free throws (351-of-405). As a senior, she averaged 19.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 3.0 steals, while shooting 53 percent from the field, 50 percent from the three-point arc, and 91 percent from the free-throw line.
“When I see my overall free-throw percentage, it actually disappoints me and I wish I could have shot even better than that,” Bridge said. “I spent many, many hours practicing shooting free throws. I believe that it’s a free shot that no one should ever miss.”
During Bridge’s ninth grade through senior seasons, Hanson High School went 21-1, 19-4, 20-1 and 20-1 for a collective 80-7 four-year record, and enjoyed undefeated regular seasons three of those four years. Despite that glittering record, the Beavers came up short in their quest for the state tournament.
“Of all the records, awards and accolades that I received during my lifetime, I would give them back for just one trip to the state tournament,” Bridge said. “That is one thing that I never got to experience!
“I enjoyed my team and playing for my dad. Of course, we had our battles and he might have been a little harder on me than the others at times, but he knows the game of basketball, has great passion for the game, and has been super successful in his years of coaching.”
Bridge (No. 21 in blue) in Hanson’s game with Tri-Valley in the 2003 Hanson Classic. At the time, both teams were ranked at or near the top of their respective enrollment classes.
“Jenny was one of the most dedicated players I have ever coached,” Jim Bridge stated. ”She loved the game and the challenges to prepare herself to do her very best. She was able to make the very most of her God-given ability and make the best of it. Jenny was one of the best shooters that I have ever been around and in my opinion was one of the best in the nation for her age. In addition, she really enjoyed the pressure situations and many times had her best performances in big games.
“As an example, during the region tournament her sophomore year, she was fouled on a three-point attempt at the buzzer. We were behind by three points, needing all three free throws just to send the game into overtime. The officials cleared everyone out of the lane because there was no time on the clock. She calmly shot all three free throws to send the game into overtime. You really couldn’t have any more pressure on a player than in that particular situation.”
In addition to coaching the girls basketball team for the past 30 years, Jim Bridge is Hanson School District Superintendent of Schools. As a high school athlete at Wagner (South Dakota) Community High School, he participated in basketball, football, track and baseball.
Among her numerous accomplishments and accolades, Jenny Bridge was a four-year all-Cornbelt Conference selection (including three consecutive years chosen most valuable player), was a three-time first-team all-state selection, was a member of the Argus Leader First Five as a senior (encompasses all three enrollment classes), was named South Dakota Basketball Coaches Association Class B Player of the Year, and was selected 2003 “South Dakota Miss Basketball.” In addition, she was nominated for the McDonald’s All-American Team and was a South Dakota Gatorade Player of the Year finalist.
Bridge distinguished herself in the classroom as well, as she received the South Dakota High School Activities Association Academic Team Award with a 3.73 grade-point average. In addition to playing basketball, Bridge participated in volleyball, cross country, track, softball, band, vocal music, student council and oral interpretation, and was on the Hanson High School yearbook staff.
Following high school, Bridge played at Dakota Wesleyan University (South Dakota). As a freshman playing for women’s basketball coach Kevin Lein, Bridge was the sixth player and earned considerable playing time coming off the bench. That team fell just short of its goal for the NAIA Division 2 national championship when it lost in the Elite 8.
Shown above (left to right) are Jenny, her daughter Taziah, sister-in-law Meggie, brother Jamin, mother Julie and father Jim
Following that season, coach Lein stepped down as coach and Bridge played the following two seasons on .500 squads. Prior to her senior year, Lein accepted the head coaching position at the College of St. Mary in Omaha, Nebraska. Lein asked Bridge if she would be interested in joining its program and she decided to do so. During her senior year, Bridge averaged 10.6 points and made 90.5 percent of her free-throw attempts.
“I think my most profound memory of playing college basketball was playing in the NAIA national tournament,” Bridge recalled. ”Since I never got to play in the state tournament in high school, I felt like that was my ‘state tournament.’”
Today, Bridge is putting her business management major and computer science minor to very good use as a cost analyst for Hard Drive Central/The Office Advantage in Mitchell, South Dakota. She has a daughter, Taziah, who just turned eight in March.
John Gillis is the associate director of development of the NFHS. If you have any comments or articles ideas, please forward them to Gillis at firstname.lastname@example.org