By MICHAEL LETENDRE
St. Paul Catholic’s Brigid Johndrow earned the Bristol Observer 2016-17 Female Athlete of the Year for the 2016-17 scholastic year.
This was another easy choice as the out-going senior has been a staple on the girls basketball team and softball squads since her freshman year.
She built herself up quite a scholastic resume for the Falcons going into her senior campaigns but Johndrow separated herself over the year with her usual grit, guile and – of course – her commitment to excellent, both on the field and in the classroom at St. Paul Catholic.
Johndrow does so much on the basketball court that even the team’s stat crew could not keep track of. Those are intangibles.
Some intangibles simply can’t be measured, like the heart she showed in her final scholastic game as she literally attempted to put the team on her back in the fourth quarter of the Falcons’ state tournament game at Career Magnet in New Haven, trimming a huge deficit before time finally ran out.
The Falcons came so close in taking that game in the end and the emotion she showed after the realization that the season was over, that’s not theatrics.
That’s desire, that’s determination, that’s her no quit attitude, and if you have a young athlete at home and want to find a model student athlete to emulate, Johndrow is the perfect fit.
Johndrow played much like former Boston Celtics’ great Dennis Johnson, a tough-nosed, no-nonsense guard who competed at the highest level. With the Celtics, he was a model teammate (Larry Bird called Johnson the best teammate he’s ever played with).
Johnson played in a tremendous system like Johndrow did for St. Paul Catholic, under veteran head coach Joe Mone.
Johndrow excelled in that system, altered her game as required and brought a defense-first approach to the hardwood.
Sure, Johndrow could score but it was her all-around game that always stood out and whether she scored four points or 16, it usually meant a victory because she was doing everything else to snatch a victory for her team.
Johndrow crashed the boards, she led the break on offense, she made the right pass, and her eyes were always working on defense, ready to snare the ball away from an opponent at an instance.
She could have coined a new position on the court for the Falcons over the years: simply position-less.
When you can play at either guard or forward position, like she did, don’t expect to be sitting on the bench much during a game.
Mone plugged her in here, plugged her in there, and the results spoke for themselves.
And don’t forget, she earned minutes on the court as a freshman and was one of the team’s captains as a senior.
All that pervious crunch time experience was critical in numerous games this past season.
Also, as many observers might now have recognized this past winter, Johndrow sacrificed a ton of her offense to talented freshmen players like Janessa Gonzalez and Jade Udoh.
That’s what a good teammate does and she took one for the team when it was clearly her turn in terms of offense and shooting.
That’s a coach’s dream…
Just like St. Paul Catholic’s jaunt to the state finals in softball, who had the girls basketball team pegged for winning the Naugatuck Valley League Tournament in 2017?
Well, the Falcons sure thought they could win it and they did, posting a huge victory over Holy Cross by a 47-30 final.
It was the first NVL title for the St. Paul Catholic in girls basketball history school history.
And then there was the scholastic softball season to tackle in the NVL which this season was, perhaps, the best scholastic league the state of Connecticut had to offer. And that fact is not up for debate.
When you put Seymour, Holy Cross, and Torrington together in the same mix, that’s one heck of a top three.
However, when you add St. Paul Catholic in that mix, now you have a top four that was miles ahead of any other top four you could put together in any other league, period.
Tag in veteran head coach Gary Hovhanessian and the Falcons were going to be winners this year.
And Johndrow had her team in the mix, off and running, from the start.
To end the season, Johndrow helped to lead the Falcons to the Class S championship game, the first time in program history the squad made it to the title tilt.
And though the 4-0 loss ended the season for the St. Paul Catholic softball team, who could truly be disappointed with the result?
Again, it’s the legacy Johndrow and a talented senior class left behind that will ultimately stand the test of time.
The softball program at St. Paul Catholic won over 50 regular season games since Johndrow came onboard as a freshman.
Every year, that group qualified for postseason play and the final game Johndrow and company played in was a state championship contest.
Script something better than that because who had that group, just like the girls hoops team in the NVL championship, penciled in as a state finalist this spring?
And take a gander at her accolades:
Johndrow earned NVL All-Conference honors and eventually scooped up Class S All-State.
That’s funny; didn’t Johndrow earn the exact same awards during the 2016 scholastic season for softball?
Didn’t she post an average over .610 in 2016, nearly 50 hits, 50 runs scored and a stolen base total (48) that would even make former Major League Baseball speedster Ricky Henderson jealous?
Johndrow is a model of consistency and hopefully, some of her younger teammates will emulate and pursue the example she left behind.
And her 2017 regular season numbers this past season were just as devastating.
She batted a slick .585 to go along with 38 hits and 14 RBI.
Johndrow smacked out seven extra base hits, including two triples and two home runs.
She walked eight times, carried an on-base percentage of .627 and slugged the ball at .784 clip – not exactly run of the mill numbers.
Coupled with 26 stolen bases in 28 attempts and that makes for one well-rounded player.
What about her defense in centerfield this year? Who else do you want to track down fly balls or backing up teammates?
There’s that intangible (leadership) again that can’t be measured.
Finally, Johndrow played for the CT Comets this summer and over the weekend of July 8, her squad won the 2017 USSSA 18U-A Summer Slam in East Hartford.
She’s been part of the squad for a few years and the Comets have been ultra-successful, winning 75-percent of its games and made finals appearances in 11 of the 19 tournaments the team took part in.
And whenever Johndrow comes back to the gymnasium at St. Paul Catholic High School, and she’ll be back to dish out a little basketball wisdom this winter, she’s going to be able to point at more than a couple banners that are hanging up and remember some truly fun times.
And along the way this year, the Bristol Tramps honored Johndrow, awarding her one of three of the Julie Memorial Scholarships – in memory of John E. Tavera.
Over the years, Lilly Martin (2014), fellow basketball teammate Kelly McMahon (2015), and Zach Federowicz (2016) all received this scholarship, putting Johndrow in quite good company.
To conclude, the Bristol Observer 2016-17 Female Athlete of Year an easy one to pick as Johndrow was the best choice.
Bristol Observer Female AOF – Brigid Johndrow
*Averaged just under 10.0 ppg for the Falcons, was second on the squad in points but had several games of near 10+ rebounds and assists (plus the Dennis Johnson type defense…).
*Numbers also included 5.0 rebounds, nearly six assists and three steals-per-game this year.
*Cashed in on 11 points and three assists in NVL girls basketball tournament championship final; Named to NVL All-Tournament Team.
*Posted 16 points in season ending tournament loss to Career Magnet in Class M quarterfinal round, helping the Falcons go 22-4 overall.
*Named to the Class S/M Connecticut High School Coaches’ Association Girls All-Star Festival Team.
*The softball numbers again: Batted .585 to go along with 38 hits and 14 RBI.
*Led squad to first ever state championship final in softball.
*All-NVL, All-State pick in softball in 2017 as the team finished 21-6 with a top-15 ranking in most CT polls.
*After trailing 8-2 going into the fifth inning against Coventry in a Class S semifinal game, Johndrow fired up her teammates with a couple quick words: “In the fifth inning here, I came in and I was like ‘guys, if we give up now, this isn’t the team I’ve known the whole season or whatever…It’s your senior year, you want to go out, you want to give everything you have.’”
“It’s not over.”
St. Paul won the game 9-8, advancing to the Class S final versus Holy Cross.