The pressure started when the buzzer sounded March 11 after New Underwood topped Parker in the Class B Girls' Basketball State Tournament for New Underwood center Jaedyn Finkbeiner.
The Tigers had finished fifth in the state tournament, and star player Brianna Philipsen was graduating. This was now Finkbeiner's team, and she accepted the role right away.
"Coming in we knew," New Underwood coach Stacey Finkbeiner said. "She played a vital role last year, she was kind of second wheel behind Brianna and this year she’d have to be the person we would go to. She’s done a great job doing that."
So far New Underwood hasn't missed the beat. The Tigers sit as the No. 2 seed in the 7B Regional Tournament after a regular season record of 16-4.
Jaedyn has been a big part of that success. Last week she scored 28 points and grabbed 17 rebounds against Bennett County Monday, and then followed it up with 26 points the next night in a win against Newell.
While she admitted there was pressure in filling Philipsen's role, Jaedyn said she wasn't intimidated by that pressure.
"I knew I’d have to step up into (Philipsen's) shoes, she was a huge part of our offense last year," she said. "I knew our team needed a new leader because she was our big leader last year, it was a lot of pressure but I think it fits well."
One of the things Stacey (who is also Jaedyn's father) started working on was Jaedyn's outside shooting.
Growing up as a pure post player had gotten her far, but Stacey wanted to add another dimension to her game that would help out the whole offense, outside shooting.
"The biggest reason is that she’s spent a lot of time in the gym, she was in the weight room all summer long and she threw up a lot of shots," he said. "If was only an interior player she wouldn’t get the opportunity because teams would just surround her. By stretching the floor, it's made her a better player but its also made the team a better team because now we get more involvement from Cerrington Jones and Avery Heinert inside."
It's hard to decide who to guard when taking on New Underwood, and part of that is because of Jaedyn's ability to stretch the floor.
She said she used to be committed to getting her points down low, now it doesn't matter to her.
"I don’t really care anymore," she said, laughing. "It used to be I wanted to be in the post no matter what, but now sometimes you get hammered so many times you kind of like a break from it."
Behind it all has been a commitment from a father and daughter. Stacey said it's been extra special to see his daughter thrive, but said as a coach it's been good to see a player mature from year to year.
"As a coach, I push her hard because she likes to be in the gym and it’s not like I have to pull her. She wants to be stronger, she wants to be bigger and she wants to be better," he said. "As a father it’s absolutely a proud moment that she’s being rewarded for the effort she’s putting in."
"It’s a great experience, he’s been my coach since junior high and before that even," Jaedyn said. "It’s nice, we can go in before school and he can help me with my shot, and he can help push me to become a better player."
But the bottom line, according to Jaedyn, isn't about filing roles or scoring a lot of points. It's about getting back to where the team was last year, the state tournament.
"Last year was great and this year we just wanted to come in and be able to pick up where we left off," she said. "Having players from last year we know how the state tournament feels and it’s been our number one goal to get back there."
The drive to get to the Barnett Center in Aberdeen for the state tournament begins Thursday when New Underwood hosts the 7B quarterfinals. The Tigers will take on the winner of the White River- Crazy Horse matchup tonight.
Other athletes considered:
Tate Wagner, Lyman boys' basketball: Wagner was on fire over the weekend, as the Raiders got two wins.
Wagner scored 28 points and 17 rebounds in Friday's 67-53 win over Kadoka Area and notched 25 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday's 74-68 win over Freeman.
Brooke Janz, Sturgis girls' basketball: Janz scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the Scoopers 52-51 win Friday over Red Cloud.
She followed that up the next night with 21 points and seven rebounds in a 69-29 win over Hot Springs.