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Lakeville North junior already in elite company

Lakeville North junior Lauren Jensen Photo: Lakeville North Athletic Department
Lakeville North junior Lauren Jensen

March 13, 2019 10:12 PM

Lauren Jensen is only a junior. But she's already etched her name all over the Lakeville North girls basketball record book.

And she's joined some select company in the process.

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The 5-foot-10 guard - who is averaging 27.4 points per game this season - already ranks fifth in program history (which includes that of the old Lakeville High School) when it comes to career scoring with 1,554 points.

You may have heard of a few of the names in front of her. They include record-holder Liz Podominick (2,323 points), who was a standout at the University of Minnesota and just missed making the 2016 U.S. Olympic team in the discus. And Rachel Banham (1,957 points), who remains the leading scorer in Gophers' history and currently plays for the WNBA's Connecticut Sun.

The next two on the list were pretty good players as well. Cassie Rochel (1,884 points) went on to play at Wisconsin and now plays professionally in Greece. And Temi Carda (1,712), who is now playing at the Division I level at Creighton.

RELATED: Eastview looks to defend state championship

"It feels awesome just to be mentioned alongside players like that," said Jensen, whose team takes on top-seeded Hopkins in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state girls' basketball tournament at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Williams Arena.

"I'm a little young to remember when Liz was playing. But I definitely remember Rachel. I looked up to her so much. I remember going to watch her games when she was playing for the Gophers. And she's come back to do camps here.

"They were all such great players who really helped build the tradition we have."

Jensen is now carrying on that tradition herself. 

Until this season, Podominick held the program record for single-game scoring with 35 points. But Jensen has now broken that mark five times as a junior, most recently with 43.

Her 182 career 3-pointers leave her just 16 shy of Banham's program-record 198.

"Anybody who watched Lauren play even in fourth or fifth grade hasn't been surprised that she's at the point she is now," Panthers coach Shelly Clemons said. "She's always had such great natural ability and skill.

"The thing that's most impressive about what she's done is that she really only started playing quality varsity minutes as a freshman. Some of those other players started on varsity in eighth grade. So she's done all this in really just three seasons."

And Jensen is eventually likely to follow in those other players' footsteps by going on to the Division I level. She is currently weighing offers from Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Creighton and other schools.

She plans to make a decision after the state tournament concludes. But for now, she's focused on the task in front of she and her teammates this week.

Lakeville North is back in the state tournament for the fourth-straight season, and for the eighth time in 10 years. But getting back was far from a given this time around. The Panthers had lost to top-seeded Farmington twice during the regular season by a combined 34 points before winning 37-35 in dramatic fashion in last week's Section 1-4A title game.

Jensen had a key basket late to put her team in front to stay.

"It feels great to be going back (to state) because I don't think a lot of people thought we'd make it this time," Jensen said. "We lost some key players from last year. And Farmington beat us during the regular season. So making it feels like a really big accomplishment."

Lakeville won state titles in 2001 and 2002, and Lakeville North won a championship in 2010. That tradition of success is passed down to younger players through the program's Adopt-a-Panther program. Varsity players attach themselves to a youth team each season - attending practices and games.

The team a player is attached to changes each season, giving them a chance to mentor more younger athletes. Jensen had her own Panthers to look up to growing up, and now she is the one being viewed as a role model.

"It really does make an impact," she said. "I can remember how much I looked up to those older players when I was a kid. I wanted to be just like them.

"So if I have the chance to do that for someone else, I want to."

Click here for KSTP Sports' Girls State Basketball Central

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