After claiming a Class 3A girls state basketball title as just a sophomore, things were never going to get easier for Joesphine Howery and the St. Mary's Pirates. That was especially true when heading into each year, the expectations of what she and her teammates could achieve only got higher.
But she never let that slow her down. Instead, she embraced it and used it to help her become the very basketball player she was when the final buzzer sounded in her final game for the Pirates.
Howery left her impression on teammates, fans and opponents en route to claiming her second 3A girls basketball Player of the Year award. By the time the 2019-20 season rolled around, Howery was used to the expectations and pressure being placed on her and her team, but as a senior she was well-equipped to handle everything and even play at higher level on the court.
"This year it felt more businesslike," Howery said. "We had seniors and leaders as team captains that we felt would lead us to another (state championship)."
Howery had the best season of her career as a senior, scoring 21.2 points per game while pulling down 6.8 rebounds and dishing 4.6 assists. She averaged almost two more assists per game this season than she did as a junior.
It didn't matter if she needed to score or if she needed to get the ball to someone else to score, Howery had every bit of faith that the Pirates had the ability to get the ball to the right spot at the right time and come away with a bucket.
"She's had that confidence ever since freshman year," her younger brother Sam said. "That's just one thing that I would like to replicate to my game."
In a way, Josephine isn't being fair to her three younger brothers. Through the course of her career she has won two state championships and two Player of the Year of awards.
Sam earned a 3A boys all-state honorable mention nod this year as a sophomore. But he can't help but look at what Josephine has done over the course of four years and realize that he has a lot of work to do to keep up with her efforts.
"She's definitely brought a legacy to St. Mary's basketball," Sam said. "If we don't keep that going it'll be kind of tough. She's definitely put a lot of pressure on me and my siblings because we try to live up to her expectations."
For Josephine, those expectations on herself came fairly early. During their first title run, the Pirates beat defending 3A champion Lamar in the semifinals before taking down rival Colorado Springs Christian School in the championship game.
"That first year is an experience you wouldn't trade with a team that you wouldn't trade either," she said. "Those bonds and memories I'll remember for the rest of my life."
That second year looked a little the same in terms of the championship game. Once again, Tri-Peaks rival CSCS stood in the way of a St. Mary's championship and again the Pirates came out on top.
That was another aspect of what has made Howery's career and the Pirates' run of state championships all the more impressive. The Tri-Peaks League has been impressive in recent years. In fact, that league has seen at least one of its members playing for the championship since 2016 when Manitou Springs fell to Lutheran. Then next year, Lamar beat CSCS to claim the 3A title.
For her entire career, Howery feels like her team's league schedule consisted of the best teams in the state.
"Having a strong a conference means everything," she said. "It prepares you for the tough road ahead and some of the best players are in the Tri-Peaks League."
That includes her. She'll continue her basketball career at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. Her impact at St. Mary's will be felt long after she's gone, through tall tales of her play on the court as well as through her younger brothers, starting with Sam.
One way her siblings can live up to the expectations she has created is to continue to develop as they get older. Josephine was never satisfied with who she was at any given moment because she felt like there was always room to get better whether it was on the court or as a team captain.
"I think I've become a more confident person and player these last four years," she said. "I wanted end the right way and the best way I could. Being a leader on and off the court was my biggest challenge and something I wanted to do."
It will be hard for future teams to talk about the Pirates' state championships without acknowledging Howery's impact. It'll be tougher for those following in her shoes to replicate that impact and live up to the expectations she has created for the program.
A proud Pirate, she'll watch from a distance hoping to see those in green and white reach her level and even soar beyond. And he really won't mind if happens to be one or all of her brothers climbing that ladder to stand next the standard-bearer of St. Mary's basketball.