Prep Newsmaker: Buffetta nears 2,000 points, but it’s her other skills that boost MIB
A six-year run as the starting point guard for Mountain Iron-Buhl's girls basketball team, which wins with Harlem Globetrotter-like consistency, has yielded jarring numbers for Mya Buffetta.
Over 167 varsity games, the 5-foot-3 senior has totaled 1,898 points and is within shouting distance of becoming the 18th Northland girl to reach 2,000. Ever since Buffetta took control of the Rangers' backcourt as a plucky seventh-grader, MIB has gone an astounding 156-14 — she's missed three games in six seasons. The stars of the north have claimed the past six Section 7A titles and, as the No. 1-ranked team in Class A, are well-positioned to make it seven in a row.
The stoic Buffetta never has had a season end shy of the state tournament. It's the expectation for MIB's seniors, including two-time News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year Chelsea Mason, who have helped a school with a 2015-16 enrollment of 131 students in grades 9-12 morph into Northeastern Minnesota's preeminent program.
"This has sort of been the group that sets the tone for work ethic and doing things year-round," said Rangers coach Jeff Buffetta, Mya's uncle. "Going back to their fifth-grade days, this team has won Pacesetter state championships at every level."
About all that's missing is a high school state championship — though they've been close.
MIB finished second in 2012 and third a year ago. Last March, Goodhue steamrolled its way to the title and opened the current campaign ranked No. 1, a top billing that went away after a humbling 78-34 loss to the Rangers on Dec. 3. A week later, MIB outgunned perennial thorn Maranatha Christian Academy 97-82.
The Rangers (11-0) are rolling. Underscoring that understatement: Mya Buffetta is fourth on the team in scoring. She's still at about 10 points per game, but her role is more facilitator and floor general. Don't expect her to complain.
"As long as the end result is our team gets a win and our team is succeeding, then I'm happy," said Buffetta, who will reunite with ex-teammate Lissy McCulloch at Jamestown (N.D.) University next fall.
Mason's 22.2 points per game lead MIB. Her career tally sits at 2,566.
Mary Burke, a 5-foot-11 junior who adds much-needed size, gives the Rangers three players with at least 1,000 points. Burke is averaging 19.5 a night, and credits Buffetta's steely leadership and savvy court presence for squeezing the most out of all the offensive weapons.
Buffetta's influence extends beyond basketball.
"She's smart, and she's still a leader off the court," Burke said. "She's the one I've always looked up to. You can always go to her to talk to, about anything. She's very trustworthy and just a great all-around person."
Buffetta, so technically sound on a squad renowned for its attention to fundamentals, knocked down an uncanny 50 percent of her 161 3-point tries last winter. It's one reason she's closing in on the coveted 2K milestone. Her uncle, though, gets more animated talking about his niece's defense and intangibles. That's where her real value shines through.
"When you play 167 games in this day and age, guess what? Points come," Jeff Buffetta said. "We don't put a lot of thought into the whole point-club thing; we recognize kids. The amount of good players she's defended over those years, usually she's taking the best guard every single game.
"And the job she's done in that has probably spearheaded our success more than anything."
The fact that Mya Buffetta thrives as a defender for the run-and-gun Rangers meshes perfectly with her whatever-it-takes personality. She just gets results, whether it's in the classroom, where she boasts a 4.0 grade-point average, or doing the little things on the hardwood.
"The best word for her is 'solid,' " Jeff Buffetta said. "She doesn't do anything flashy. She doesn't look to be flashy. She's just trying to run the show and do her job."
Mya Buffetta, as you may have guessed, comes from a hoops family. Her father, Brian, is an assistant coach at MIB, and her brother, Joe, is a sophomore starter for the boys team. She grew up around the sport, immersed in its nuances from a young age. By third grade, she was serious about the game.
And here she is now, about two months to go in a prep career that has spanned more than a half-decade. Time, as they say, flies when you're having fun. What's more fun than winning? Doing so at noon on March 18 at Williams Arena — when the Class A final tips off — would be the ultimate parting gift.
"It's really gone by fast, and we're just trying to make it back to state this year and, hopefully, win the whole thing," she said.
PREP NEWSMAKER: MYA BUFFETTA
Prep status: Mountain Iron-Buhl senior
School activities: National Honor Society
Family: Father, Brian; mother, Kari; brother, Joe
Pets: Blitz, a black Labrador
College plans: Play basketball and possibly study physical therapy at the University of Jamestown in North Dakota