An evolution: Sydney Lamberty becomes Park's all-time leading scorer
When Park head girls basketball coach Stephanie Tolkinen thinks about Sydney Lamberty, a game five years ago against Forest Lake comes to mind.
Already playing varsity ball as an eighth-grader, Lamberty drove the lane late in fourth quarter and got leveled. But, she finished the game and didn’t show any emotion until after the final buzzer when she was back in the locker room.
“That’s just the way she is,” Tolkinen said. “She’s a tough kid. That’s just something that’s inside of her. She doesn’t back down. That’s why she is where she is. That’s how she grew up in this game.”
That evolution and her toughness, ability and work ethic has helped Lamberty become Park’s all-time leading scorer.
On Tuesday, Dec. 10, in a win at home against Rosemount, Lamberty — a 5-foot-11-inch senior guard — scored 26 points to break Park’s career scoring record, surpassing longtime teammate Larissa Lurken’s 1,735 points. Park 2002 graduate Ashley Smith is the school’s third all-time leading scorer with 1,533 points, followed by 2009 graduate Katya Leick (1,484) and 2008 graduate Jackie Voigt (1,252).
“It’s hard for me to see myself in this position,” said Lamberty, a team captain. “When I was little I looked up to Jackie Voigt and Tina Fischer. I wanted to be like them when I was older. Now that I’m in that position it doesn’t feel real. It’s hard to believe and it’s really humbling.”
Lamberty said breaking the scoring record was an individual goal she’s had a long time, but it wouldn’t be possible without her teammates.
“It was fun to do it, especially because the team supported me,” Lamberty said. “Without them I wouldn’t be here. It was a fun experience to share with them. Winning the game definitely made it even better.”
Because of a brief dip in the girls basketball program at Park, Lamberty was thrust into the fold as an eighth-grader. The Wolfpack struggled to a 3-24 record that season and Lamberty was second on the team in scoring at 10.3 points per game. However, better days were on the horizon. Since that year Park has a record of 61-29 and has reached the section championship in two straight years. Currently, the Wolfpack is 3-1 and Lamberty is averaging a career-high 24.5 points per game.
“We took our lumps that first year and she learned what varsity basketball is like,” Tolkinen said. “She got thrown into the fire right away. She had to grow physically and mentally. She committed herself to getting better and getting stronger. I think those lessons she learned as an eighth grader set her career path in motion and set her goals for where she wanted to take her high school career.”
What’s she’s accomplished is quite a bit.
Lamberty, who signed a National Letter of Intent to play Div. 1 basketball for Creighton University, is already an all-state honorable mention and two-time all-conference player. In addition to now being Park’s all-time leading scorer, Lamberty is the school’s all-time assist and steals leader and will finish among the top five in rebounding. The fourth player to go over 1,000 career points in Tolkinen’s tenure, Lamberty will very likely go over 2,000 career points this season.
“I think jack-of-all-trades is a great phrase for her, because she plays on both sides of the basketball and she does everything well,” Tolkinen said. “She can obviously score. But, she’s been one of the best ball handlers our program has ever had, she’s one of our top rebounders and she’s been one of our best defensive players.”
On offense, though she is a dangerous outside shooter, Lamberty’s bread-and-butter is driving to the lane and scoring or drawing a foul.
Fitting, her record-breaking point came on a free throw.
“She’s been developing that outside shot and it’s still developing,” Tolkinen said. “She doesn’t shoot a ton of 3-pointers. She’s definitely made her share of them, but her No. 1 thing is getting to the rim. She’s shot a ton of free-throws and has made a lot of them.”
Lamberty is a 70 percent free-throw shooter. She is also 47 percent from the field for her career, but is over 50 percent this year. Most of her scoring in the past has come from isolation plays and posting up defenders rather than shooting spot up jumpers and coming off of screens.
“She sees the floor so well,” Tolkinen said. “Now she’s a better decision maker of when she should pass it and when she should keep it. Being as good as she is she draws attention. But, she knows now there’s times she needs to put the team on her back and she does – or if we need a stop on defense, she does it. She understands that when we need a play she can be that playmaker.”
This past week was a big one for Lamberty. In addition to setting the scoring record, Lamberty scored 52 points, had 11 rebounds, seven assists, four steals and two blocked shots in a pair of wins over Section 3AAAA opponents Eagan and Rosemount.
“I’m so excited for her,” Tolkinen said. “She deserves everything she gets because she’s put in hours and hours of work in the gym on shooting and ball handling and playing AAU ball and coming to all of the camps. She’s definitely deserving of this and anything else she gets throughout the rest of her career.”
Lamberty has gone from an undersized eighth-grader on a losing team to being on the top of the scoring list and leading a winning program. She said over the past five years she learned how to not give up and work towards her goals.
“You definitely have to pursue what you want, work hard and never give up on your dreams,” Lamberty said. “You can’t let anyone tell you you have to do any different.”
Park High School all-time leading scorers
Sydney Lamberty 1,777 (ongoing)
Larissa Lurken 1,735
Ashley Smith 1,533
Katya Leick 1,484
Jackie Voigt 1,252
Kristen Schmidt 986
Tina Fischer 972
Janine Nelson 852
Ann Setness 842