The offseason wasn’t anything like Josie Lee had ever experienced before, or would care to experience again. But this March is feeling awfully familiar and the former Cony High School star is fine with that — to a point.

Lee and the Tufts Jumbos are in the NCAA Division III Final Four for a third consecutive year. Despite their 27-3 record, it’s been a season in which the Jumbos and Lee have had to overcome some uncertainty.

The 5-foot-7 junior guard from Augusta is a co-captain for Tufts. Last year, she stepped into the starting lineup for an injured senior during the New England Small College Athletic Conference tournament. This year, she’s come back from two injuries to reclaim her starting role and be the two-way spark the Jumbos needed to change their style and stay in national contention.

Seventh-ranked Tufts takes on unranked Wartburg (23-7) at 5 p.m. Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.

The Jumbos’ mindset this year is the same as always — win the program’s first national title — but with most of the core that led them to the last two national semifinals graduated and a new style of play, Lee said this is not the same team as the one that each time came up a game short. This time, the Jumbos insist they won’t settle for anything short of that goal, and Lee is one of the grizzled veterans who is setting that tone.

“It’s a different type of feeling this year,” she said. “My role is probably similar to how I ended last year. But I’m a junior captain, so my leadership role has increased.”

Lee did what leaders do in the sectional final against Scranton (Pennsylvania). She played a season-high 35 minutes and hit a big 3-pointer that triggered a 10-0 Jumbos run to obliterate a 45-45 tie and deflate the Royals, who had already pulled off one big comeback on their home floor to make a game of it in the second half.

“That was a great feeling. I got super excited after that shot,” said Lee, who finished with seven points, four rebounds and three assists.

“We play in a very good conference and we’ve been in those situations,” she added. “So when we do need to make those type of shots, we’ve got a lot of confidence.”

Lee missed part of the NESCAC gauntlet after suffering a concussion Jan. 6 at Bowdoin. She had to sit out three games, which included a chance for friends and family in Augusta to see her play at Colby. Coach Carla Berube eased her back into the starting lineup, coming off the bench her first five games back.

The mid-season hiatus and ascent back into the starting lineup were fairly simple compared to what Lee had to go through to get back on the court in time for the start of the season. She fractured her foot last spring, requiring a metal plate to be inserted on May 8 to bring the bones in her foot back together. The plate was removed Aug. 10, leaving Lee a little over three months to rehab the foot in time for the start of the season in late November.

Lee missed the preseason but was more concerned with being in shape for the grind of the regular season. The Jumbos graduated about 50 percent of their offense and wanted to become more of an up-tempo team. Berube stressed that her guards would have to be aggressive in the halfcourt defense for that to work. Lee would have to be the first line of defense in the halfcourt and look to force the tempo whenever possible.

“I really focused on making sure my energy was always there,” Lee said. “I was winded very quickly when I first started practicing.”

She played 28 minutes as a reserve in the season-opening win against Brandeis and immediately returned to the starting lineup for game two against Eastern Connecticut St.

Lee settled into her role and averaged five points, four rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. The Jumbos went 22-1 after the holiday break, including 10-0 in NESCAC for the third straight year.

“I knew we were capable of this with the pieces that we had, but I think it was going to take us a little time to figure out roles and just piece things together,” Berube said on Tufts’ web site. “I couldn’t be more proud of how they’ve stepped up. We had a couple of tough losses first semester. The players got together, rallied together and when we started to play well in the beginning of the second semester they didn’t think anything was going to stand in their way.”

Tufts’ Final Four experience makes it the favorite against Wartburg (of Waverly, Iowa), which had a Cinderella run through its sectional in St. Paul, Minnesota. Tufts isn’t the only team left with a big-game history. Defending champion Thomas More College (Crestview Hills, Kentucky), which beat the Jumbos in last year’s semifinal, and Amherst (Massachusetts), which edged Tufts, 50-49, in the NESCAC championship, will meet in the other semifinal.

The Jumbos can get the ultimate revenge on one of those teams in the championship game, but no one knows more about how difficult it is to go from on the door step to actually opening the door to a national title, so Lee isn’t taking anything for granted.

“Wartburg has been playing at a very high level during tournament time,” Lee said. “They have a good post player and really good shooting guards. We’ve been paying close attention during scouting and practice and our coaches do a good job of preparing us for whoever we play.”

That’s where the experience can be a big factor in Tufts’ favor, Lee said. Being physically prepared for the final four is one thing. Being mentally prepared for all that surrounds the event so that it doesn’t translate to a lack of focus come game time is just as important.

“We already know we’re going to be treated great at the final four and how great all of the off-the-court stuff can be, so we’re just focused on what it takes to win a national championship,” she said.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

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Twitter: @RAWmaterial33