Even before the first game of the 2017-18 season, Garden City High School girls basketball coach Matt Pfeifer knew he would need to find some scoring from other players to alleviate pressure on his top returning senior scorer — 5-10 guard/forward Josie Calzonetti.
It took a few games in the early portion of the schedule, but Pfeifer perhaps has found some support for Calzonetti.
Saturday night, it came in the form of another Calzonetti, 5-9 freshman Julie, who scored a career-high 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds to help propel the Buffaloes to a drama-filled 59-53 victory over Scott City on the final day of the Clarion Inn Roundball Classic at The Garden.
It was the first loss after three wins for the Beavers, while the Buffs, who enjoy playing in The Garden in December, are now back to .500 at 3-3. It also was the second straight year under Pfeifer that the Buffs began the season 0-3, only to return to The Garden and go unbeaten.
But it was more than just the spark provided by the younger Calzonetti, as another freshman, 5-10 Keyhana Turner, contributed four points, but more importantly a game-high 12 rebounds.
Oh yes, there was the elder Calzonetti, who made her presence felt, getting a game-high 21 points from 7 of 11 shooting (2-of-4 from 3-point range).
And Beth Guymon scored in double digits for the second straight game, netting 11, including a pair of treys.
The game pitted the only two unbeaten teams after the opening two days of the Classic, in which Scott City, Holcomb and Garden City all host visiting teams from afar.
“We knew it would be one of the hardest games of the weekend,” said Julie Calzonetti after the Buffs went on a 6-0 run in the four-minute overtime after the game was knotted at 53. “We’ve played Scott City in the summer, and our goal was see if we could go unbeaten these three days.”
The younger sister was 6 of 11 overall from the field, including one three-pointer.
“My whole goal this year was just making JV, so to be playing on the varsity is not something that I was expecting,” she said. “I think those early games, my freshman (inexperience) showed.”
Things were made more difficult coming home to the Classic after the Buffs had gone 0-3 at last weekend’s season-opening Canyon, Texas Tournament of Champions.
“The fact that we did it (3-0) is huge for us,” Julie Calzonetti said.
The fourth quarter, and then overtime, loomed large for the Buffs and it was the Calzonetti sisters leading the way.
In the final eight minutes of regulation, Julie dropped in five, including a 3-pointer to start the quarter which pulled them to within three at 43-40 after trailing 43-37. Scott City’s biggest lead came at 43-35 with just more than 1:30 to play in the period.
Josie, who continued her torried scoring pace (20-plus points in each of the three wins), dropped a 10-spot on the Beavers in that final stretch run of regulation.
“We got a little flustered at the end of regulation because we didn’t even get a shot off,” Pfeifer said. “But I told the girls that it was time to re-compose and get our emotions under control.”
Getting that first basket of overtime— a deuce from the younger Calzonetti — got the Buffs off and rolling, and it was their defense that harassed the Beavers into multiple turnovers at the end of regulation and in the extra period.
Guymon dropped a 3-point bomb at the two-minute mark and added another free throw with just 9 seconds left to put this one away.
“I think it just took a few games for the freshmen to get comfortable playing varsity ball, but they’re now figuring out their roles,” Pfeifer said. “This feels good, but I sure wish we had another game this next week. We’ve gained some confidence.”
For Scott City coach Sarah McCormick, who guided the Beavers to a fourth-place finish in Class 4A-II last season in just her second season at the school, took the loss as a learning opportunity for her squad.
“This was certainly a game we could have won,” McCormick said. “But it was a lot of little things that we didn’t do — boxing out, making free throws (8 of 17), making layups, turnovers (17) — that caused us to lose this game.”
Holding that lead late in the third period and then watching is slowly slip away was another area that McCormick said will serve as a teaching moment.
“We’ve got a whole week off (they next play Dec. 19 at Colby) to reflect on things. We’ll watch film. One thing about these girls is that they’re fighters. They’re used to coming back.”
Senior Macie Price led the Beavers’ scoring with 12 points and sophomore Emily Weathers was right behind with 11. In all, nine different players cracked the scoring column.
“We’ll find the things we need to work on to get better, and get as ready as we can for the next game,” McCormick said. “Garden’s got a good team, and they created some real challenges for us.”
The Buffs will be idle until Jan. 5 when they face Liberal to open Western Athletic Conference play.
Classic note: The Classic named an All-Tournament team and Most Outstanding Player for the three day event.
The elder Calzonetti was named the MOP while leading the five-player all-tourney selections.
She was joined on the elite squad by Holcomb’s Eboni Sapien, Scott City’s Weathers, Kennedy Brandenburg of Wichita Collegiate and Sydney Day of Palmer Ridge, Colo.
While Garden City went 3-0 for the only clean slate, Palmer Ridge, Holcomb and Scott City each went 2-1.