Prep girls basketball: Veteran does dirty work for Mountain Iron-Buhl
The high school enrollment at Mountain Iron-Buhl is a modest 113 students. Simple math would suggest about half of them, 55 to 60, are girls. It only seems like they all play basketball. Talent abounds in Jeff Buffetta's program. So much so that ...
The high school enrollment at Mountain Iron-Buhl is a modest 113 students. Simple math would suggest about half of them, 55 to 60, are girls.
It only seems like they all play basketball.
Talent abounds in Jeff Buffetta’s program. So much so that a four-year starter who has received a full-ride athletic scholarship to continue her career at Division II Bemidji State often is overshadowed by a pair of potential-packed freshmen.
It doesn’t bother Allie Knuti one bit. The versatile 6-foot-2 forward is content to do the dirty work. A suffocating defender with a nose for loose balls, Knuti leaves the scoring to younger teammates Chelsea Mason and Mya Buffetta, the coach’s niece.
She doesn’t care who gets the credit as long as MIB gets the win.
“She’s all about team success,” Jeff Buffetta said Tuesday.
Knuti and the third-seeded Rangers (28-2) open their fourth consecutive Minnesota Class A girls basketball tournament today against unseeded Win-E-Mac (28-2). The ball goes up at 5 p.m. at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.
MIB has morphed into a hoops hotbed, and Knuti has been in the middle of the transformation. When she was a freshman, the Rangers rode the likes of Charlotte Overbye and Dakotah Winans to state for the first time since 1994. As she gets ready to leave high school for the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, state tournaments have become commonplace at MIB. The goal this year is to one-up the 2012 club that finished second.
“We’re really pushing this year because we were so disappointed last year losing in the first round,” Knuti said.
Knuti averages 8.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, both team-highs, to go along with 10.5 points per game. Mason and Mya Buffetta, meanwhile, combine for more than 32 points per contest, Mason averaging 17.9 and Buffetta 14.3. Along with Lissy McCulloch, who averages 10.4 points per night, the Rangers feature four double-digit scorers. MIB’s multi-faceted attack allows Knuti to expend the bulk of her energy corralling rebounds and flustering opponents.
“It’s a lot of help because I can focus on the things that I do best, and if I do well at those things, then the points will come,” she said.
Calling her “probably the best rebounder I’ve ever coached,” Jeff Buffetta said Knuti’s length inside serves as a strong deterrent to opposing players contemplating a trip into the paint.
“It makes our guards be able to play a lot freer style when they have a 6-2 girl protecting the inside,” he said.
The winner of today’s game advances to a Friday semifinal at Williams Arena against either Mankato Loyola or Maranatha Christian Academy.
However the rest of the tournament unfolds, Knuti’s prep career is almost over. Next fall, she will join her former Ranger teammate, Winans, in Bemidji - though she admits that’s the furthest thing from her mind this week.
“I’m not even worried about that right now,” said Knuti, who has more than 1,000 points and 900 rebounds in her career. “I’m focused on my team and the state tournament.”