The season ended with an unfortunate asterisk.
St. Mary's, the two-time 3A girls’ state champions, did not have an opportunity to claim a third title after the season was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Josephine Howery’s high school career will not be defined by an asterisk.
It’s defined by her work ethic and improvement through four varsity seasons, capped with a 21.2 points per game average as a senior. It’s defined by her attention to detail, ball handling and footwork. Her teamwork and sportsmanship. And now the title of Gazette Preps 2019-20 3A-1A Girls’ Basketball Peak Performer of the Year.
The grief of the cancellation in the semifinals lingers.
“It’s almost worse than a loss,” Howery said. “With a loss you feel like you had a chance and you had an opportunity to win. We did everything right, but we didn’t get that opportunity. It is gut wrenching.”
Through the sadness Howery remains focused on the impression she left on the St. Mary’s basketball program.
“It still hurts, but we’ve just been thinking about what we’ve done before, and the legacy we’ve already left," she said. "Our team has nothing to hang our heads about. We ended our careers with a win at DU and two state championships. It’s hard to be too sad when you think about all the things we have accomplished.”
As a sophomore Howery averaging 13.9 points and led the Pirates to the program’s first state championship.
The next year, averaging 19.2 points, Howery describes the team’s postseason run as emotional, but almost business-like.
The Pirates concluded the season averaging 74.9 points. No girls' team in the state averaged more.
“We wanted to end the season the right way. By staying classy, staying humble competitors, but also leaving no doubt that we were the best team in the state,” Howery said. “Definitely this year felt a lot more business-like. We know what our goal is and we’ve been there before. And for us seniors it felt like we wanted to leave that legacy for the younger players to keep moving toward.”
Howery finished with 1,672 points -- a school record for both boys and girls. She holds the all-school record for points in a game with 41, and has a 96-7 record in a Pirates uniform -- she missed just one game.
“Hard work pays off,” Howery said. “It’s fun to think since my freshman year almost all of my state numbers have improved, and that took a lot of hard work and hours of practicing the little things. And the little things matter when you’re leaving a legacy.”
And St. Mary’s coach Mike Burkett hopes Howery’s efforts don’t go unnoticed by his up and coming players.
“I had a freshman ask me one time, ‘Coach, how do I get more playing time.’ so I pointed over to Josephine who was working. I said, ‘Do you see that young lady? Do you think she was born that good?’ and they responded -- ‘Yes, I really do.’” Burkett said. “Josephine has built her game from the ground up. She set goals and worked really hard. I can’t begin to tell you how much she has grown. The stuff that looks so natural to her now she has worked on for hours and hours. They don’t come much better. She is a coach's dream and one of those players that comes around few and far between.”