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'Incomparable' scorer Sara Pfeiffer leads Olean back into title contention

Sara Pfeiffer is making up for lost time as she shoots her way up the list of Western New York’s all-time girls basketball scoring leaders.

Returning to Olean after spending last season at Seton Catholic, a high-level prep school in Chandler, Ariz., the senior guard with swagger leads Section VI with 35.1 points per game. Her 2,124 career points rank 10th on WNY’s career list, a feat made more impressive by the fact that she didn’t play here her junior year.

The highlight of Pfeiffer’s spree came on Feb. 3, her senior night, when she scored 63 points against Maple Grove after being honored pregame for reaching the 2,000-point milestone.

“It’s kind of unreal, an unexplainable feeling,” Pfeiffer said. “Coming back home for my senior year, knowing how much support I have here, it’s been a really good feeling and kind of overwhelming.”

Pfeiffer’s 63-point performance ranks third in New York State history and second among Section VI players behind Felice Mann, who scored 80 for Burgard during the 1989-90 season. Pfeiffer made 13 of 21 shots from 3-point range, including a half-court buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter. It was the second-most 3-pointers in a game by a local player (Medina’s Madison Williams made 16 in 2017) and third-most in the state record book.

“I have a lot of confidence in my shot,” Pfeiffer said. “If I’m open, I’ll shoot it. And when it’s not falling, I’ll keep shooting.”

Through 18 games, Pfeiffer has surpassed 40 points in six games, equaling the number of times she has scored less than 30. She has scored 30-plus points in seven of her last eight games and enters Thursday night’s regular-season finale at Iroquois averaging 49.3 points in four February games.

Having struggled to a 7-14 record without Pfeiffer last year, Olean is 16-2, ranked third among WNY small schools and 13th in the state in Class B.

Before Pfeiffer left to play in Arizona, the Huskies went 42-5 while she averaged 25.4 points during her freshman and sophomore seasons. While at Seton Catholic, she averaged 18.8 points over 32 games according to MaxPreps.com.

“It’s a whole different ballgame with her on the floor,” Olean coach Chelsea Bowker said. “She’s an overall leader and when you are a great player, you make the people around you better.”

Opponents have tried to thwart Pfeiffer with double-teams and box-and-one defenses. One team did both, deploying a triangle-and-two focused on Pfeiffer, and held her to a season-low 18 points.

“We’ve definitely seen a lot of junk defenses, but when we do, Sara’s passing has been unbelievable,” Bowker said. “She’s an all-around player. She can pass. She can handle the ball. She plays defense.”

Olean’s Sara Pfeiffer drives to the basket against Southwestern during second half action at Southwestern High School in 2017. (Harry Scull Jr./News file photo)

Claiming the entire Southern Tier within scoring range, Pfeiffer has averaged 38.2 points per game in the competitive CCAA West 1 division, which includes second-ranked local small school and state No. 10 Southwestern.

In her first game against Southwestern this season, Pfeiffer poured in 49 points before being disqualified on a technical foul early in the fourth quarter. Olean led by 22 points when Pfeiffer exited the game and held on to win by three.

Pfeiffer’s 63-point outburst came against a Maple Grove team regarded as one of the best defensive groups in the division, led by perimeter stopper Kelsey Tarbarke.

“I think our league is the toughest overall in Western New York,” Dunkirk coach Ken Ricker said. “There are no nights off. We have a lot of veteran coaches who work hard and put in a lot of time watching film and coming up with defensive plans.”

After Pfeiffer finished with 33 points following an 18-point first quarter in a win at Dunkirk on Friday night, Ricker said “we felt like we had quite an accomplishment."

“If you want to stop Sara, you have to put two on her," Ricker said, "but that can get tricky because of how good of a passer she is.”

Ricker has known Pfeiffer since she was five years old and called her “a scorer since birth.” Last summer, Ricker recruited her to be the dominant scorer on his Jamestown Elite AAU team that features several of the Southern Tier’s top scholastic players.

Pfeiffer had a star performance in Louisville at the Run for the Roses AAU tournament, averaging more than 30 points in leading Jamestown Elite to the championship game.

“She carried us on an incredible run,” Ricker said. “As a scorer, she’s incomparable.”

Not even Mckenna Maycock, the St. Bonaventure senior who set a Section VI record with 2,947 points in her career at Randolph, possessed the same natural scoring ability as Pfeiffer, according to Ricker. Maycock’s career-high scoring average was 30.8 in her junior season.

“Mckenna could out-athlete people and had a really nice skill level,” Ricker said. “But Sara has a skill level that is just different than any girl I’ve been around.”

Bowker also played for St. Bonaventure after being a 2,000-point scorer in high school. She believes Pfeiffer can be a Division I-caliber shooting guard.

Pfeiffer said she has been in contact with the University at Buffalo and “some smaller schools,” but has yet to make a decision on her college plans. Some recruiters have questioned how her domineering court presence will translate at the scholarship level.

“She definitely plays with a chip on her shoulder,” Ricker said. “But I told her, in AAU I wanted her to do that. We got blown out in our first game in Louisville because she was trying to fit in. I told her I had enough players like that and we needed her to play her game.”

“She’s hard-nosed,” Bowker said. “She has that edge. And those are the best players to coach. She’ll put in the work to be the best she can be.”

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