Columbian senior embraces leadership role while reaching milestone

It was a small thing, but it was worth noting.

Earlier this month, after Columbian’s girls basketball team defeated Fostoria, I was in a conversation with a few people.

Columbian senior Maddie Brisendine walked up to me. She looked at the people I was talking to, and politely said, “He’s going to interview me.”

In my entire career, there was only one other player who has done that. That was Tiffin University men’s basketball star Joe Graessle. Graessle so frequently shined of the Dragons that finally, he just started coming up to me after games, figuring I wanted to talk to him.

So I must admit, when Brisendine — who has started and been one of the Tornadoes’ players for four seasons — approached me for an interview, I was impressed.

But it only made sense. Brisendine is not only the standout for Columbian, she’s also the leader. And for that matter, the spokesman.

But that’s not a new thing.

Brisendine has played at forward and guard for the Tornadoes. She’s made 3s. She’s rebounded. She’s fought through injuries to be — consistently — Columbian’s best.

“I have definitely looked up to her, since I’ve been in seventh grade, knowing she’s played very well,” Columbian junior post Abby Dryfuse said. “She’s helped me a lot.”

Columbian coach Erin Reed, who took over in Brisendine’s sophomore season, said Brisendine has been extremely important to her and the program.

“Next year, she’s going to be missed tremendously,” Reed said. “In every aspect. She’s just my go-to for communication with the team. Team captain, points, anyway you look at it.”

And now there’s a milestone to look at.

In Saturday’s game at Sandusky, Brisendine scored 19 points in the Tornadoes’ 72-42 win over the Blue Streaks.

By doing that, Brisendine went over 1,000 points for her career. She needed 11 going into today to reach the mark.

Brisendine, who was interviewed Friday, said 1,000 points has been a goal of hers for some time.

“It’s definitely crazy. Ever since I was a little girl, especially in middle school and stuff, it’s always been my dream to hit 1,000 points in high school,” she said. “The fact that it’s actually going to happen is crazy to me.”

One thousand points is one thing. A record is another. Brisendine’s also in good position to become the Tornadoes’ all-time leading scorer. Anjee Beaston — who starred for TC in the mid-1990s — holds the record with 1,161 points.

Brisendine is averaging about 13 points a game so far this season. So it’s certainly a good possibility she could surpass Beaston in the record book.

“I also want to break the scoring record for the school,” Brisendine said. “I’m really excited about my senior year and how it’s working out.”

Reed provided some context for Brisendine’s accomplishments.

“It’s awesome to get 1,000 points, but Maddie has been really good the hard way,” Reed said. “My first year here (2015-16), 12 of 22 games we had were against state-ranked teams. She hasn’t gotten any points against teams that are losing. She’s got 1,000 points and possibly breaking the record Columbian has, against good teams, a tough schedule.”

Reed mentioned how in the past two seasons, Columbian has had to play regional-bound Bellevue three times. As part of the Northern Ohio League and now the Sandusky Bay Conference, Brisendine has been tested by powerhouses like Norwalk and Bellevue. This year, the Tornadoes will add two games against Heidi Marshall and Clyde.

There’s rarely been a break.

But there’s reason to believe Columbian’s best season with Brisendine will be this one. With rebounding machine Dryfuse being paired with a dynamic point guard in Kaia Woods, the Tornadoes have a strong foundation. Add players like Hailey Cooper and Autumn Sehlhorst, and the expectations for the Tornadoes are higher than they’ve been in years.

“Most definitely,” Brisendine said when asked if this was the best TC team she’s been on. “My freshman year we were good, but we weren’t this good. I think we have a real chance at winning a lot of games this year.”

Which will probably mean a few more interviews with the Tornadoes’ unquestioned leader.