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Lambrigtsen played for ailing mother this season


Basketball is in Sam Lambrigtsen's blood. Her mother played and, at one time, coached the Oregon Hawks. Her father was also an avid player. Lambrigtsen is SVM's player of the year.
Basketball is in Sam Lambrigtsen's blood. Her mother played and, at one time, coached the Oregon Hawks. Her father was also an avid player. Lambrigtsen is SVM's player of the year.

Nine months ago, the Lambrigtsen family was forever changed.

That's when Wendy Lambrigtsen received the news that she had breast cancer. That was June.

Since, it's been a grueling battle for Wendy, her husband Boyd, and their daughters, Sam and Olivia.

Sam, a junior at Oregon High School, stepped up when her family needed her to. The Sauk Valley Media player of the year also stepped up for her team, leading the Hawks to a school-record 23 wins.

The 5-foot-5, 127-pound point guard made a lot of great moves during Oregon games this season, but her best move always came with mom immediately after the final horn sounded.

"After games I would always give her a big hug," Sam said. "I played for her every game."

Lambrigtsen was already a great player, but this season she played with a purpose.

"She's really loud in the crowd," Sam said of her mother. "So, hearing her or looking at her would make me play harder."

Wendy, whose treatment plan is scheduled to conclude Friday, discovered her cancer herself.

"It was a visual," she said. "I thought, 'Something doesn't look right.' I knew right away something was wrong."

Two days later she saw the doctor, and the following week she had a mammogram and biopsy and got the dreaded news.

Wendy, a Mount Morris "lifer" who coached the Oregon girls varsity team for 3 seasons from 1994 to 1997, was coaching Sam's AAU team. Two days after the season, Wendy had surgery. She began chemotherapy just after Labor Day and started radiation treatments in January.

Chemotherapy was unforgiving.

"The first four treatments were the heavy hitters," said Wendy, whose maiden name is Rittenhouse. "That could leave me for 2 days where I felt like I couldn't get out of the chair."

But, the day after chemo, she had to get a shot which helps generate white blood cells.

"It's extremely painful," she said. "I felt like I was 150."

Boyd, a native of Whitehall, Wis., lost his dad to cancer and his mother is a breast cancer survivor. He could not fix his wife's ailment.

"I think that's the general way a man reacts; they want to solve the problem," he said. "But, I learned early on that it's better to listen and support."

The ordeal has brought the family closer together.

"We've all developed a greater appreciation for each other. We tend to not take everything so seriously and try to smile more," Boyd said as he tried to fight off tears.

Wendy starred at Mount Morris before playing at Rockford College. She and Boyd played together in men's recreation leagues and once had a co-ed team in the Gus Macker 3-on-3 tournament.

Boyd has played a key role in Sam's development as a player with their many one-on-one battles.

"He never let me win," Sam said. "I would get pretty upset. I even cried sometimes."

After years of losses, Sam finally beat dear old dad.

"I think it was maybe my freshman year," she said. "And, I rubbed it in his face for a couple weeks."

It's easy to appreciate Lambrigtsen's game. The silky smooth left-hander, who was born on Senior Night one of the seasons her mom was coaching Oregon, has been a 3-year starter and has scored 1,345 points. Each year she has received all-state recognition and has been a first-team All-Sauk Valley and All-Big Northern Conference West selection.

This season Lambrigtsen averaged 17.9 points, 4.1 steals, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. She was named to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Class 1A/2A all-state second team and was an Associated Press Class 2A honorable mention all-state pick. She also led the BNC West in scoring.

That was all after Lambrigtsen missed the first six games of the season due to a suspension for an Oregon High School code of conduct violation.

She was once a multisport standout who also starred in soccer and track before focusing solely on basketball. She was a state qualifier and the team's MVP in track as a freshman, her lone high-school season in the sport.

Lambrigtsen is also a solid student, boasting a 3.75 grade-point average while tackling several honors courses.

Warning to future Oregon opponents: Not only does Sam Lambrigtsen have one more year to wreak havoc, in 2016 Olivia Lambrigtsen will be a freshman, and she's supposed to be around 6-feet tall, according to her parents.

Sam is helping bring along Olivia, a 10-year-old fifth-grader, by playing one-on-one with her. Just like dad did with her, Sam does not let Olivia win.

"She reminds me a lot of me," said Sam, who proudly recalled Olivia sinking a half-court shot in a game this season. "She's so competitive like me."

Sam I am

School: Oregon

Year: Junior

Family: Mother, Wendy; father, Boyd; sister, Olivia (10)

Resides: Mount Morris

GPA: 3.75

Career: 1,345 points; three-year starter

Junior season: 17.9 points, 4.1 steals, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game; SVM player of year; IBCA Class 1A/2A second-team all-state; AP Class 2A honorable mention all-state; unanimous first-team All-BNC West; BNC West's leading scorer

Sophomore season: 14.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.3 steals, and 2.1 assists per game; SVM first-team all-area; IBCA Class 1A/2A special mention all-state; first-team All-BNC West

Freshman season: 15.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.7 steals, and 2.9 assists per game; SVM first-team all-area; IBCA Class 1A/2A honorable mention all-state; first-team All-BNC West

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