By BRETT MARSHALL
When the Garden City Lady Buffaloes basketball team advanced to the 2009 Class 6A state tournament, it was the first time in more than two decades since the team had accomplished that feat.
That was David Upton's second year at the helm of the Lady Buffs, and now in his sixth season, the team is coming off its most successful season in school history, posting a 17-3 record and sweeping through the Western Athletic Conference season with a perfect 8-0 mark.
Those accomplishments are now tossed away, put away in a folder to be brought out and appreciated at a later time.
Now, Upton and his Lady Buffs are in the one-and-done format of postseason, and they get under way with their postseason pursuit at 7 p.m. Thursday, when they host Western Athletic Conference rival Dodge City, a team they easily dispatched twice during the regular season.
"We feel good about it and feel comfortable here," Upton said, making note that the Buffs have not lost at home all season. "I hate having to play a team a third time. I'm sure Dodge will tweak some things to make it tougher for us. I don't take anything for granted. I've told the girls that we have to go out and play our game, take care of us and let the result take care of itself."
With just one senior — 6-2 post Johna McClelland — on the roster, the Buffs have played consistently throughout this memorable season after going 13-9 a year ago, losing to Wichita South in the sub-state title game, 53-45, to miss out on the trip to the 6A state tournament at Koch Arena in Wichita.
"The mentality of this group has been a different focus than our teams in the past," Upton said. "Their ability to understand and their desire to win, I think they've performed and played hard all year."
Junior Taryn Tempel has been the team's leading scorer at 15.2 points while sophomore Jaymie Bernbeck has been steady all year, averaging 12.6 points and 4.4 rebounds. McClelland has produced some of her best games down the stretch of the regular season and has season averages of 10.9 points and a team best 7.8 rebounds.
"I'd certainly like to see her taking that short range jump shot a little more," Upton said. "She's done a nice job with that and has been more aggressive with her rebounding. The others have all done a great job of playing defense and then making the transition from that to the offensive end."
Junior Jacksenie Tornero, the point guard, has been a steadying force for Upton, averaging 6.4 points and nearly four assists per game. She has hit 34-of-38 free throws (89 percent). The Buffs have averaged 57.6 points per game while giving up 40.5 points.
A victory on Thursday likely will put the Buffs on the road Saturday where Maize (18-2) would likely be their last obstacle to a berth in the state tourney.