Lindsey Hamma still likes the photograph in which she dives into basketball coach Tom Dineen’s arms after her team stunned Illinois state basketball and won a state title in 2000.
“I gave Mr. Dineen a hug,” Hamma said. “People ask me what he was saying to me in the picture, and I have no idea.”
It’s been 11 years since ‘s girls basketball team brought home the state championship trophy.
“It was amazing,” Hamma said. “We had worked hard for four years. I still remember everybody was going crazy. I was a little teared up after that. I couldn’t stop smiling. My jaw hurt after that.”
Hamma is now the head girls softball coach at Hoffman Estates High School. She coaches freshman basketball in the winter. Sports have been a big part of her life.
“My grandpa was a big athlete,” she said. “He played basketball at Missouri. He was my biggest influence.”
Early on, she played her sports at the Wheeling Park District. That’s where she ran into future teammate Piper Mead. Redistricting pushed her over to Buffalo Grove.
“To this day, people still ask me about Wheeling,” she said.
At Buffalo Grove, she played three sports. It was volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter and softball in the spring. During her freshman basketball season, the varsity team went to state.
“We lost to Taylorville,” Hamma said. “I got in the game the last 30 seconds. But that was good experience.”
Her summers began to fill up with more sports.
“I never played AAU basketball,” she said. “But I was in the school summer leagues. I was the type of kid who liked to shoot around.”
Hamma learned in college that her experience in three sports were important.
“I benefited from three sports,” she said. “They told me at Illinois that they valued three-sport athletes. I think it was huge for me.”
Naturally, her last season of high school basketball is the one that people remember. There was that 33-32 win over to claim a regional title.
“I think I threw an ill-advised pass to Pee Wee (Counley),” she said. “But things happen for a reason. We got that foul.”
And then Hamma, Patty Vermiglio, Kendra Ryl, Allison Guth and Mead went Downstate.
Down went Thornwood, and in a shocker, Fenwick. The championship game would be against Washington.
“It was the perfect ending,” Hamma said. “We had to avenge that loss to Washington. They had given us our worst loss in four years. It all fell together.”
With three minutes to play in regulation, Washington had erased a double-digit Buffalo Grove lead and led by three points with three minutes to play. Hamma’s three-pointer tied the game and sent the game to overtime. BG won the state title 60-51. Hamma had a team-high 15 points in the state championship game.
“I was open so I took the three,” Hamma said. “All I was asked to do was to do everything right. I was the in-bounder on that team. Right when we won it, I had the ball in my hands. That was a great group of girls and the majority of them are still great friends.”
And softball? The BG team with the slugging shortstop Hamma didn’t make it downstate, but this was the sport she took to college.
“It was the first sport I started playing,” she said. “I played baseball. I always liked it and kind of excelled at it.”
At this time, college softball became a sport at the University of Illinois.
“I was the first person to sign at Illinois,” she said. “I remember they brought in 18 freshmen. We were all brand new to college softball.”
At Illinois, Hamma started every game at shortstop. She recalls that she knocked in the school’s first run. By the end of her college career in 2004, she was already in the school record book in 12 different categories.
That kind of a career earned her notice in the world of softball. She played a year of professional softball for the Chicago Bandits.
“It was kind of a humbling experience,” she said. “I played first base, where I learned a lot about the corners, but I also learned a lot about coaching.”