BRUNSWICK — Shannon Brady almost didn’t go to Bowdoin College. She was a late bloomer in high school basketball and started the college search a little later than most. She was playing at a basketball showcase at Babson College after her junior year at Scituate High in Massachusetts when someone mentioned Bowdoin and Bates as possibilities. A Bowdoin assistant was there and they started corresponding.

The assistant was impressed, and she mentioned Brady to Adrienne Shibles, the Bowdoin head coach. But the Polar Bears, like many schools, had already filled their needs. They had no spots available.

“Thankfully,” said Shibles, “someone dropped out. And she came to visit at just the right moment.

“Really, a lot of that whole process with Shannon was luck. We were very fortunate.”

Brady feels the same way.

“Coach will laugh about it,” said Brady. “She kind of took a chance on me, giving me a spot. I kind of lucked out.”

Now the lone senior on Bowdoin, the 6-foot-1 Brady will lead the Polar Bears into the Sweet Sixteen for the 13th time in school history this weekend. Bowdoin (22-6) will play the University of Rochester (22-5) at 5 p.m. Friday in Amherst, Massachusetts, in the NCAA Division III Sectionals.

Brady leads the Polar Bears in scoring (16.6 points per game) and blocked shots (1.8) and is tied with Kate Kerrigan for the team lead in rebounds (6.4). She was the New England Small College Athletic Conference co-player of the year. Beyond that, she has been an exemplary leader on a young Bowdoin team.

“Shannon doesn’t take a play off in games, but more importantly in practice,” said junior guard Marle Curle. “She’s always holding herself to a high level of play. … She always has a positive attitude. She makes big shots.

“She’s a great teammate, a great leader on and off the floor.”

Brady, who has a double major in sociology and art history, said she was just trying to uphold Bowdoin’s basketball tradition.

“I just wanted to be a great teammate, a good leader and someone who embodied the values and traditions of Bowdoin basketball,” she said before practice earlier in the week. “That is the best thing about this program – it’s a lot of great people, people who hold themselves to a high standard and are leaders on the court and on campus.”

Brady stands out among them. Shibles said she has an empowering leadership style.

“She finds ways to grow confidence in her teammates,” said Shibles. “When a talented player like Shannon says, ‘Take that shot’ or ‘You’ve got this,’ that just lifts everyone involved.”

That was important early in the year, when the young Polar Bears were still learning their roles. Brady carried the team through some struggles early on, then realized she didn’t have to.

“We had a shared leadership model,” said Shibles. “We have a lot of strong leaders among our young players and it was nice to see them step up.”

Brady is Bowdoin’s primary inside force, using her speed – “She’s the fastest player on our team,” said Shibles – and athleticism to score against bigger, more physical players. She has a soft hook shot and has developed a step-back turn-around jumper. Defensively, she uses her length to block shots.

She will need all those tricks against the Yellowjackets, whose roster includes six players who are at least 6 feet tall. Shibles and Curle noted that the Polar Bears’ defense – which allows 52.4 points per game – will have to be at its best.

Beyond that, said Curle, “it’s a lot of mental preparation. You hope our hard work pays off.”

Brady says last year’s tournament experience – when the Polar Bears lost in the Sweet 16 – has been motivation for this group.

“We’re excited,” she said. “More than anything, we’re hungry for more.”