If the Buffalo High School Lady Bison team thought they could luxuriate in the fact they were hosting the East/West Classic at BHS with a healthy, experienced team that could ease into the first few games of the season, they were a little mistaken.
After a successful finish to last year’s season and with one of the best guard duos in the state and plenty of varsity experience around the rest of the floor, the Lady Bison entered the Classic on Friday with a target on their backs, ranked No. 2 in the state behind Douglas and facing a number of up-and-coming teams ready to knock them out of the rankings.
But with three convincing victories and one heartbreaking loss, the Lady Bison proved they will be a force for the rest of the season in 3A.
Buffalo beat Pinedale 63-40, Powell 67-25 and Lovell 60-43, falling only to Lander 30-19 in a game where the Lady Bison were trying to find their footing without all-state point guard Kaydin Davis who left the Powell game with an injury the previous night.
Davis started her senior season against Pinedale on Friday with an electrifying performance. She shot lights out from the field for 20 points, hauled in seven rebounds, dished out six assists and notched five steals against the Lady Wranglers.
Jordyn McNamee matched Davis with 20 points as the pair combined to shoot 14 of 25 from the field and 7 of 10 from the 3-point line. McNamee also added eight boards, three steals and a pair of assists.
Kenli Bauer started out a solid weekend with nine points, four rebounds and two steals. Sydni Dobbin added six points and three boards. Kendra Schultze finished with four points and three steals. Riley Fowler and Lexi Rule chipped in two points apiece. Easton Phillippi had a nice appearance with three rebounds and a block. Kendall Tietjen finished with a rebound, assist and a block as well.
The Lady Bison continued that kind of play Friday night against Powell in front of a big home crowd. Davis drained some early 3s and found Dobbin for baskets down low to start things out. Schultze got into the lane for some big baskets and crashed the boards as the Lady Bison built a big lead early.
Midway through the second frame, however, a simple move at mid court sent Davis to the floor. She would exit for the remainder of the weekend with a knee injury. It was the kind of moment that could have sucked the energy out of the Lady Bison, but they responded well against the Lady Panthers despite losing such an important part of the team.
Bauer stepped up for a huge second half. She hauled in some big rebounds, grabbed some important steals and dished timely assists. She was perfect from the line and finished with 12 points.
“They kept playing hard after Kaydin went down,” coach Michelle Dahlberg said. “They didn’t let her absence get to them in that moment, but it wasn’t easy.”
Dobbin continued to look comfortable around the rim and finished with 10 points and two rebounds. McNamee added 10 points, three assists and three steals. Schultze looked like the best player on the floor at times. The junior finished with eight points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals.
Phillippi came off the bench for another solid effort. She finished with seven points and three offensive boards in seven minutes of playing time. Rule finished with three points while Fowler and Tietjen added two apiece. Davis still finished the leading scorer after just a quarter and a half on the court. She finished with 13 points, four assists and three steals.
“I was so proud of Kaydin. She had done everything so well,” Dahlberg said. “Her leadership, her play, her effort and coachability are just outstanding. My heart goes out to her, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope her knee isn’t that bad. She is so well-rounded and makes everyone around her so much better.”
The Lady Bison definitely could have used Davis Saturday morning against Lander. The Lady Tigers took advantage of a short-handed Buffalo team and handed them a difficult loss.
“It was emotional before the Lander game,” Dahlberg said. “It was a strange feeling. We just kind of wanted to get the morning over with.”
Buffalo struggled from the field and the on the glass. McNamee finished with eight points for Buffalo. Dobbin added five points. Phillippi, Schultze and Bauer added two apiece.
The Lady Bison rallied Saturday night against Lovell, however. In Tietjen’s second start at point guard, she got into the flow early and had her best game of the weekend. The sophomore finished with nine points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals.
“We changed a couple of positions against Lovell,” Dahlberg said. “Kendall got to work to her strengths, which was beneficial and she figured things out quickly.”
Dobbin finished with a double-double. The senior put in 17 points and grabbed 10 boards. McNamee was again hot from the field to add 16 points and three steals.
Schultze and Bauer got back into a rhythm on the boards. They also combined for 13 points.
“I told them we don’t need them to go out and score points, just execute and play good defense and don’t turn the ball over,” Dahlberg said. “The offense will come if you do that, and it did.”
Phillippi finished with five points and three boards in limited minutes. Fowler had two rebounds and two assists. Rule added an assist as well.
The Lady Bison took on Worland Tuesday night on the road and host Sheridan on Saturday. The Lady Bison beat the 4A Lady Broncs last year in Sheridan.