Buhler the catalyst behind Lady Tigers’ playoff season
FARMER’S KORNER – Shannon Buhler doesn’t ask for respect. She earns it. She doesn’t save energy. She burns it. Buhler is the only senior on the Summit High School girls basketball team, and she is everything – everything – one could want from that position. She is the team’s toughest and most athletic player; one of its top shooters; its hardest worker and hustler, by far; and she’s clutch.The Tigers have been defined by balance this season en route to their 16-7 regular season record and a No. 6 seed in the 4A state tournament, where they play No. 11 Falcon tonight at 6 p.m. in Pueblo. They start players from all four classes (freshman to senior), and the leading scorer varies by night – especially lately.
But there is only one backbone. And that’s Buhler.”Everyone respects her as a player and a person,” junior co-captain Amanda Neal said. Then Neal paused, considering Buhler’s above-average maturity and the way she keeps the team motivated and together. “She’s like the mother of the team.”Buhler averages 12.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and four steals per game. Her thievery ranks fourth in the state, and is the leading reason Summit is able to play its high-energy transition game, which first-year coach Jeff Neal said Wednesday is the key to the Tigers’ success in the state tournament.”She’s not the most skilled basketball player (by nature),” Jeff Neal said. “But she’s become a terrific basketball player because of that work ethic and because of how athletic and physical she is.”
Buhler underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason (she dislocated it six times last season, but kept playing), and missed some time this year because she hurt it again. One might think the prospect of an injured Buhler would put a smile on opposing coaches’ faces. Not so.Jeff Neal said the rest of the coaches in the 4A Jeffco League respect Buhler as much as her teammates do, and even though they know she’s the one that makes Summit’s clock tick, they were happy to see her overcome her injuries.”With Shannon,” Neal said, “not only do they know she’s a good player, coaches have said a lot of nice things, about the fact that they’re glad she’s healthy and they know she’s been through a lot physically. She’s very well thought of in the coaching ranks, at least in our conference.”Neal added that having Buhler around has made his job this year easier. Buhler said the feeling is mutual from her position.
“Jeff and I work well together,” she said. “I’ll be yelling on the court to run something, and Jeff will say, ‘Yeah, that’s a good idea.’ Or he’ll say something and I’ll already be thinking that. We’re definitely on the same page.”Asked if she enjoys her role as the lone senior, Buhler smiled. “Yeah, I like having the pressure on my shoulders,” she said. Then, in her typical sidestepping fashion, she added: “But our team comes together so well that there hasn’t been that much pressure on me.”The Tigers tip off against Falcon at Pueblo West High School tonight, and would play No. 3 Sierra at 4 p.m. Saturday if they won.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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