Every week during the basketball season a panel of voters participates in The News' large and small school boys basketball polls.
And every week we let you know, like the title says ... how The News voted.
The complete final polls will be published in our All-Western New York issue on Saturday (read all about it in the paper because it won't be posted online until Sunday), but we'll get the basketball rolling with a look at our ballot.
Here are links to our previous How The News voted posts: last in-season poll (March 1), Feb. 22, Feb. 15, Feb. 8, Feb. 1, Jan. 25, Jan. 18 (after the MLK Classic), Jan. 11 (first poll of 2011), Dec. 21 (holiday edition) and Dec. 14 (first polls). And here's this week's:
1. Jamestown (20-4) [last poll: 2] -- Easy one here. Only 10th Section VI team to make the state championship game in the largest classification.
2. Canisius (20-8)  -- Crusaders did lose at home to Falls, but that was in December. They get the edge here -- for a spot which the next three teams can make a legitimate claim for -- for playing excellent team ball at a consistently high level at the end of the season and showing a killer instinct those big games (notably winning at St. Joe's -- where Falls lost in the same week -- and coming back to beat Joe's in the Manhattan Cup final).
3. Niagara Falls (19-2)  -- They were up on Jamestown heading into the final minutes -- a popular place for teams that would lose to the Red Raiders the next two weeks. Canisius gets the edge for that killer closing instinct that wasn't there for Falls at St. Joe's and against Jamestown.
4. East (18-5)  -- There might be some who say that East played Aquinas much tougher than Canisius or St. Joe's did, and well, that's because they did. I don't think it's so simply put because I think Aquinas slept on East a bit. Not many people really gave the Panthers a chance but they were warriors to the end; if Chris Boyd doesn't take a conk on the head against Aquinas, things could have gotten even more interesting.
5. St. Joe's (21-6)  -- Season ultimately defined by the two losses to Canisius in the final 15 days.
6. Williamsville South (20-2)  -- Somewhat astonishing to put a team that lost only by four points at Jamestown and in double-overtime to East -- and an early December buzzer-beating win over Canisius -- in this spot. However, I had slid the Billies to No. 5 last time based on a seven-point home win over Iroquois in the quarters and the thought that the top four (Falls, Jamestown, Canisius, Joe's) were playing better down the stretch. South also settles in this spot after it had to come from behind in the final quarter at Buffalo State to beat two Yale Cup teams ranked below them (Hutch-Tech, Bennett).
7. Bennett (15-6)  -- Talented Tigers went out against South and owned two regular season wins over ...
8. McKinley (17-4)  -- ... the Macks, who followed a fine quarterfinal win at North by bowing out in a less-than-pretty game against Falls.
9. Hutch-Tech (12-8)  -- Engineers put a memorable scare into Will South before falling in the A2 semis.
10. Riverside (14-8)  -- I had the Frontiers in this spot last time by a sliver over Lancaster and they stay theres. Riverside followed its win at Maryvale with a big win over another ECIC III toughie in Cheektowaga before falling to East. The Redskins weren't able to play Jamestown nearly as tough at Buffalo State (15-point loss) as it did during the regular season (losing by four on the road and eight at home).
In the bonus:
11. Lancaster (14-5)  -- See aforementioned sliver.
12. Olean (15-5)  -- Played East tough and their youth keeps them a step below the aforementioned teams, but not by much at all.
13. Bishop Timon-St. Jude (17-8)  -- Also would be a fun matchup against any team on this list up to No. 7. Tigers lost at South, lost three times to St. Joe's, lost twice to Canisius.
14. Maryvale (16-3)  -- Still the winner of the top large school not playing at Buffalo State.
15. Cheektowaga (16-3)  -- Still tucked right behind ECIC III mate, still ever-so-slightly in front of a muddled mass which includes Frontier, Kenmore West, Kenmore East, Clarence, Williamsville East and Williamsville North, certainly not necessarily in that order.
1. International Prep at Grover Cleveland (19-4)  -- Wire-to-wire in this spot, losing state semifinal in overtime to the eventual state champions.
2. Cassadaga Valley (19-4) [NR] -- Do we get any credit for having the Cougars in our in-the-bonus rankings at No. 11 last time? Or maybe writing the following with it? "It could be a big week for the Cougars." As clear a No. 2 as I-prep is a No. 1. These guys could play some serious basketball, they played as a team, they played smart, and they played hard. Not a bad epitaph for a season.
3. Lackawanna (13-9)  -- The Steelers were tremendous at Buffalo State with impressive wins over Dunkirk and then Newfane before running into No. 2 Cougars. A very solid No. 3.
4. OTC Middle College (12-8)  -- If I-Prep is a wire-to-wire No. 1, then credit must be given to the Kats for not only taking the Presidents to the wire in a six-point C semifinal loss (it was tied at 61 with :47 left), but taking them to overtime in the regular season finale and losing by seven in their first meeting. Then there's the overwhelming quarterfinal win (68-41) over Holland, which, led by junior standout Jordan Farrant, was coming off a 10-point win at a good Salamanca team (the Warriors went 14-5 and handed Cassadaga Valley its last regular season loss). For us, a very clear No. 4. After this, not so clear.
5. St. Mary's (17-10)  -- After looking very good in erasing the loss at Walsh with a rout of the Eagles in the Manhattan Cup quarterfinals, they were overmatched in losses to Canisius and Salesian. They were packed in a tight zone with Newfane (beat them in OT) and Wilson (lost to them in OT) for much of the season, and we give them an edge here largely because ...
6. Newfane (16-5)  -- ... I saw two very different Panther teams at Buffalo State. I thought the Blue Zone could have been celebrating a title after a dismantling of Tonawanda, instead the Panthers were dismantled by Lackawanna in the final.
7. Tapestry Charter (17-4)  -- Wish I could have been in the gym for the comeback win over Maple Grove in the Red Dragons' postseason home-away-from-home, Jamestown Community College. Great first season for coach Schunk and the speedy Thunderhawks led by senior Dazmon Knight, but I think the teams above are more balanced.
8. Wilson (16-5)  -- I had the Lakemen up high based on a second-time-around win over Newfane, but I always thought they might be on the edge of a poll precipice because they had to be a different team without Tyler Truesdell. They were. Very nice last-minute comeback against unranked Cleveland Hill in the semifinals before falling to Cassadaga Valley, but I see them clearly a step behind the above teams.
As you'll see in when the poll comes out, my fellow pollsters don't share my view of the Lakemen. I'd love to have a split-screen debate with them, PTI/Around The Horn style. Particularly vexing to me is how Newfane finished in relation to Wilson. The teams split super-close games, each winning at home. But that was before Truesdell was hurt. The advantage in a third meeting would have to go to Newfane.
9. Tonawanda (16-4)  -- Big drop for the Warriors, which is to be expected after a 63-38 loss to Newfane in the B-1 semifinals. Still, a terrific ECIC IV championship season for the team followed by a Tribe of fans -- including a late-season win at Lackawanna.
10. Dunkirk (19-1)  -- Another memorable season despite the not-so-memorable finish.
In the bonus: If the list were longer, the next teams on it would be Maple Grove, Pine Valley, Cleveland Hill, CSAT and Holland.
The I-told-you-so-department wanted me to mention that my late-season votes regarding Canisius, St. Joe's, Lackawanna and Dunkirk -- which were quite unpopular at the time -- were backed up by what went down in the playoffs. The big swing-and-a-miss for me was Cassadaga Valley -- but I wasn't alone there (the Cougars were unranked in previous poll with eight points).
Don't like what you're reading? The comment space is below.
Or join me for our weekly chat on Wednesday night at 9, where we'll have plenty to talk about with the polls, the All-WNY selections and surely some spring sports, too (especially if that sunshine keeps on coming).
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