Every week during the basketball season a panel of voters participates in The News' large and small school boys basketball polls.
But not every week is the week before Christmas! So this week's blog is in the spirit of our first effort at this back in 2010.
This is just one ballot -- there are nine other voters in each poll.
Here's last week's ballot as well as a link to our final "How The News voted" post from last basketball season.
Note: Today's poll is the last of 2012. The poll takes a two-week holiday break and will return with the Scholastic Spotlight on Jan. 8, 2013.
1. Niagara Falls (2-1) [last week's poll: 1] -- We see a definite top three in the poll. We also see them not being separated by much.
Falls certainly deserves the top spot based on their season-opening overtime win over Bishop Kearney, because the Knights are as fearsome as the Central Park Rangers.
2. Canisius (2-1)  -- Another Tuesday, another great matchup. Last week it was the now-classic with Olean. Tonight it is that aforementioned Kearney team, which evened its record with a very solid win at Albany Academy.
Am I going to the game tonight?
Is there sugar in syrup?
3. Jamestown (3-0)  -- These guys looked very good in the win over St. Joe's. I wasn't kidding about how closely the top three are grouped together. Quinn Lee Yaw and Brendan Kellam are dynamic up front, they have a go-to sharpshooting leader in Tommy Campion and a stat-sheet-filler in Zack Panebianco.
Panebianco. That's fun to say. Pan-e-bi-an-co.
4. Williamsville North (3-0)  -- Latest impressive victory was over top 10 team in Clarence, following wins over Batavia and Riverside (with Justice Feggans). A key factor for the Spartans is that senior David Berkun is hitting so many threes.
If he had one more he'd have one for each of the 12 Pains of Christmas.
5. St. Joe's (4-1)  -- Got any last-minute shopping to do? Mark Cerza has some experience in the last-minute area.
6. McKinley (3-1)  -- The Macks (pictured above) stay tucked behind St. Joe's after the home loss. They have a matchup this evening at South Park (off to 5-0 start). Some of the Macks were so angry after the St. Joe's loss that they sounded like a certain South Pole elf.
7. Bishop Timon-St. Jude (2-4)  -- The Tigers get coal in their stocking for not calling in their game Sunday, a 58-42 loss to Kenwood (Ill.) during their weekend trip to Chicago.
Hope they didn't leave anyone behind.
That has happened before in the Chicago area near Christmastime.
They also had a 78-23 victory in league play.
Looks like that game went a little bit like this:
9. Clarence (3-1)  -- There are some contenders out there for the last few spots in the top 10, but we like these next two teams. Because, at this point, if you want Amherst in the top 10, which I'd say I do, you've got to have Clarence in there since the Red Devils beat them in the Lancaster tipoff. No Christmas tie-in if your nickname is the Red Devils.
Then again ... I think they actually might be more closely linked than we realize ... because when you move the letters around in Santa ... you get ...
10. Amherst (3-1)  -- See above. Those on the outside looking in include Williamsville South, Sweet Home, Riverside, Hutch-Tech and maybe South Park. You want a Christmas reference for these guys? You'll have to wait until Dec. 25th. Just kidding. You'll have to wait until the end of this blog.
1. Olean (4-0)  -- After the win against Canisius during its dominating start to the season, the future for the Huskies (not just this year but next year, with all those juniors) is brighter than 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights.
2. Middle Early College (3-0)  -- Many ways of saying good basketball: Middle College, OTC, Middle Early College. Kind of like: Season's Greetings, Happy Holidays, Good Tidings. Or like this song.
3. Silver Creek (6-0)  -- Simply, having, a wonderful early-season time (the schedule doesn't hurt). Black Knights are a third through their regular season already; in other news they have started their Christmas shopping for next year. Talk about ripping through the wrapping paper on their presents. (Feel free to provide your own ho-ho-horrible Christmas line).
Last one: These guys have started so hot, they're attracting interest from this guy:
4. Lackawanna (4-0)  -- Steelers appear to be back. Not seeing them last year at Buffalo State was kind of like a Christmas without people putting idiotic inflatable things on their lawn.
5. Newfane (2-0)  -- I'm totally coming up blank here. Panthers deserve this spot with win over the next team on this list. Niagara-Orleans always plays some tough basketball. I'm just blanking on tying in a big red Christmas bow with these guys. Sorry -- I'm a cotton-headed ninny-muggins. Readers, feel free to give it a shot :-) .
6. St. Mary's (3-2)  -- The Lancers' schedule has caused some bumps (losses to Newfane and then Will South after a 3-0 start). But St. Mary's always plays a tough schedule.
Their early games are kind of like traveling through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then walking through the Lincoln Tunnel. Somewhere along the way you're going to run into a racoon who doesn't want a hug.
7. Nichols (4-1)  -- Early wins over Cleveland Hill and Maryvale looking better this week for the Vikings. These guys were also once known as the Big Green. Speaking of big and green ...
8. Depew (2-2)  -- Another team that annually plays a quality schedule. Both losses have been close ones, to Amherst in OT and to an improving St. Francis team on a last-second shot. At Larry Jones' Workshop, the Wildcats don't have to worry about meeting their quota. They crank out quality performances like Foom Foom's crew cranks out Etch-A-Sketches.
9. East (2-2) [NR] -- The Panthers always seem to start with a couple of losses, but their home win over Riverside -- albeit there was no Justice in that game (Feggans, the fourth-team All-WNYer) -- shows they'll be a tough small school to tangle with.
Maybe even as tough as this guy:
10. Maryvale (2-1) [NR] -- Quality win over fellow ECIC-III-large-turned-small-school-this-season East Aurora earns them a spot here. The Kensys won't be singing Christmas Carols today. Nooooo way. Dad Mark (Maryvale coach) visits son Chris (Amherst coach) tonight in a matchup of two teams on this ballot.
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And of course, Happy Holidays. See you next year.