Bri Frongillo leaves lasting imprint on Massachusetts girls’ basketball

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Bri Frongillo (© Daily News and Wicked Local Staff Photo/Ken McGagh / USA TODAY NETWORK)

There is no shortage of iconic professional athletes cherished by children in Hopedale, Mass., a small town about 25 miles southwest of Boston.

But when 9-year-old Grace Rojee was tasked with dressing up for school one day as someone she admired, she did not choose Tom Brady or David Ortiz or Paul Pierce.

She chose someone who looks like her. She chose Bri Frongillo.

“(Bri) was blown away,” said Jason Rojee, Grace’s father and Frongillo’s basketball coach at Hopedale High School.

Grace walked into school dressed like her hero, with a Hopedale No. 1 jersey over her chest and her brown hair tied up in a bun. She cut a similar image to Frongillo, the senior guard committed to Bryant University who recently scored her 2,000th career point. When Frongillo graduates this spring, she’ll no doubt leave behind a legacy remembered for years to come.

“She’s one of a kind,” Rojee said.

Last Friday morning, the day after Hopedale closed the regular season with a 56-28 thumping of Milford. Rojee was messaging Frongillo on Google Chat about her nomination form for Massachusetts Gatorade State Player of the Year. It was not a matter of searching for statistics and accomplishments, but paring them down.

The 5-foot-3 Frongillo is the 78th player in state history, girl or boy, to reach the 2,000-point club. And she’s done it by being ruthlessly efficient. In 18 regular season games this season, she averaged 27.4 points, five assists, three rebounds and three steals. She shot 90 percent from the foul line and 55 percent from long range. She is Hopedale’s heartbeat, and it has led to success: The Blue Raiders entered the Central Massachusetts postseason tournament with a 17-1 record, before falling to Sutton 37-34 in the first round.

Hopedale lost its second game of the season but has been a juggernaut ever since, with Frongillo playing a leading role. The season reached a peak on Feb. 15, when she hit the 2,000-point mark late in the first half against Milbury. Frongillo wheeled around a screen and caught a pass at the top of the perimeter, took one dribble to her left and pulled up from deep. She held her follow-through as the ball sank through the net. Her teammates mobbed her in celebration and the referee called for a stoppage in play. Frongillo posed for photos with her parents.

Rojee is a first-year coach at Hopedale, after moving to the area five years ago from a nearby town where he coached basketball. His wife insisted he look to get back into the game. From afar, he watched Frongillo become one of the most dynamic players in the state, and when the Hopedale job opened ahead of this season, Rojee jumped at the opportunity.

He had been watching, after all, as Frongillo began her journey on Hopedale’s varsity team as an eighth grader. When she moves on to Bryant next season, the team will be without one of its most familiar faces, but the Milbury game hinted at a bright future. With the game knotted at 49, it was Phoebe Carroll, an eighth grader, who hit the go-ahead jumper with 1.4 seconds left to deliver the Blue Raiders the 51-49 win.

In that moment, Carroll, much like Rojee’s daughter, looked a lot like an athlete she admires.

“Everything (Frongillo) does,” Rojee said, “is at another level.”

Josh Needelman is the High School Sports Editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JoshNeedelman.