As he prepared to enter his second season as the head coach of the Garden City High School girls basketball team, Matt Pfeifer knew that there would be many challenges.
First, he was replacing four graduated seniors from a team that struggled to a 6-16 record.
Second, the early-season schedule was going to be tougher than usual as the Buffaloes open Friday and Saturday at the AMA-TechTel Tournament of Champions in Canyon, Texas.
But what he could not have anticipated was the opening game at the TOC when they will face two-time defending Texas Class 5A champion Canyon at noon.
On top of that, the unusual bracketed tournament will see the Buffs play a second game later in the day, either a 5 p.m. consolation game or an 8 p.m. semifinal battle. Either way, the Buffs will face one of two teams in the later tip-off — Stratford, Texas, or Abilene Wylie, Texas.
“We don’t see this in at the varsity level (2 games in a day) in Kansas,” Pfeifer said earlier this week. “They (Canyon) have already played about five or six games, so we’ve got our hands full, obviously. It will help us get ready for the next week," referring to the Clarion Inn Roundball Classic in Garden City on Dec. 8-9-10.
The lone returning starter for Pfeifer is 5-10 senior Josie Calzonetti, who garnered second team all-Western Athletic Conference honors as a junior.
“She’ll play a little on the inside, but we’ll also swing her to the outside and see where we can get some mismatches,” Pfeifer said of Calzonetti. “We’ll definitely be moving her around.”
Pfeifer, who said he planned to use a deeper rotation during the "two games in one day" format, indicated that the remaining likely starters would be a pair of senior guards — 5-3 Beth Guymon and 5-6 Annie Gerber — along with 5-5 junior guard Elyssa Salazar and 5-10 freshman forward Kayhana Turner.
The Buffs’ coach said he and his staff had been impressed with Turner in the summer camps and then in preseason.
“She’s skilled, but we’re working with her to come out of her shell,” Pfeifer said of Turner. “She’s a talented passer, but we also need her to score.”
Guymon, who suffered a knee injury two seasons ago, and played her junior year during an extended rehab process, is now healthy and Pfeifer expects more scoring from her.
“She’s always been able to shoot and the last two years have been tough for her,” Pfeifer said. “I think you’ll see a different player from her this season.”
Overall, of the 12 players making the travel roster to Texas, four are seniors, three juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen.
“We’re awfully young, so there will be some growing pains along the way,” Pfeifer said. “But the group has been eager to learn, and I think we have some athletic players.”
Following the two games on Friday, the Buffs will conclude their Texas trip on Saturday. That game could be played as early as 9 a.m. or as late as noon, depending on Friday’s outcomes. Friday, the Buffs will play at Canyon High School in the opener and then will switch to the First United Bank Center, also in Canyon, for their second contest.