By Keith McShea
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.
This week is the last poll ... before the final poll. Or the second-to-last (which is what penultimate means :-) ).
Here's last week's ballot (Week Nine, Feb. 19 -- playoffs begin). Previous polls: Week Eight, Feb. 12 -- Valentine's edition, Week Seven, Feb. 5 (Canisius No. 1), Week Six, Jan. 29 (Super week); Week Five, Jan. 22 (inauguration), Week Four, Jan. 15 (MLK), Week Three (Jan. 8, back from two-week holiday break); Week Two (special Christmas edition, Dec. 18); Week One (Dec. 11). Also, here's last year's final 2011-12 post.
The final poll will be published in our annual All-Western New York issue in early April.
1. Canisius (21-4) [last week: 1] -- And we thought they were playing at a high level last week, before utter blowouts of St. Francis (not totally surprising) and St. Mary's (totally impressive well before the margin got to 65. 65!).
2. Niagara Falls (16-3)  -- Loss of Vinzell Watkins for the playoffs -- especially after some troubles with NT in the quarters -- certainly would seem to help the AA chances of ...
3. Jamestown (17-2)  -- ... the Red Raiders. Suddenly both Falls (vs. Ken West) and Jamestown (vs. Clarence) are just a third-win-against-a-league-opponent away from another meeting at Buff State.
4. Bishop Timon-St. Jude (13-13)  -- Funny how things go. I had kept Timon at No. 7 last week, beore Tigers had a close win over St. Francis, after which I said I wouldn't have voted them so high. Then Timon puts it all together to beat St. Joe's in the Manhattan Cup semis, so instead they go rocketing up. A win like that, in a game like that, at this point of the season, is worth rewarding.
5. St. Joe's (20-6)  -- Season suddenly over in Manhattan Cup semifinals (for second straight year). Timon put it all together (some would say finally), and on the other hand, especially at the outset, St. Joe's played like they weren't going to have to work hard to beat the Tigers for a third time. Obviously a disappointing end for a team that had played some wonderful basketball.
6. McKinley (16-3)  -- I'm rewarding Timon for the win over Joe's, and I still think Joe's would have the edge over the Macks; the way Timon played Sunday, certainly feel good about putting them ahead as well.
7. Clarence (15-4)  -- Red Devils finished strong against Lockport.
8. Amherst (18-1)  -- Eventually wore down Riverside. I still have to keep Amherst behind Clarence, not only due to early win, but we like the way Clarence is playing.
9. Kenmore West (14-6) [NR] -- Well, would you look at the Blue Devils, regaining that top 10 form at just the right time as they go into Williamsville North and win (one year after North won at West in the quarters).
10. Williamsville North (15-4)  -- Home loss in the quarters was a stunner. Still, have to keep Spartans above the rest of the crowd (Will South, Sweet Home, Lockport; not necessarily in that order).
1. Olean (19-1)  -- Huskies are certainly big favorites in Class B, but there are some good teams in those brackets (they're on this list). Should be fun to watch at Buff State.
2. Silver Creek (19-0)  -- We think the Black Knights will be back at Buff State a week from now for the overall C final.
3. Oracle Charter (18-1)  -- If seedings hold, Oracle-Middle College on Friday at JCC will be loads of fun, just as people have been thinking since the Phoenix rose up at McKinley.
4. St. Mary's (17-6)  -- What happened against Canisius? Canisius happened. The Crusaders are playing at an extremely high level, and even a team that has been playing outstanding basketball was blown out of Koessler on Sunday. Was very similar to last year's Manhattan Cup blowout that Canisius dealt St. Mary's. Crusaders just outmatched St. Mary's all over the court.
Lancers still, however, have a shot at Catholic state title in two weekends at Fordham. I'd think they have a very good shot, but that's a tough game and a tough trip.
5. Middle Early College (14-5)  -- See No. 3.
6. Cleveland Hill (17-2)  -- Based on what I saw in the loss to St. Mary's last week, I seriously thought about moving them behind a team they beat twice in the regular season, only because the ...
7. Lackawanna (17-3)  -- ... Steelers were so impressive against Depew that I was like, "How did Cleve Hill manage to beat these guys twice?" Cleve Hill did rebound nicely with a big home win over Roy-Hart, one which I put on #preptalkupsetalert (whoops). We'll see if this week's action shakes this out.
8. East (13-6)  -- So impressed was I with the Steelers that I moved them past these Panthers, who I last had a look at in their regular season finale loss at home to Middle College. And if Cleve Hill beat Lackawanna twice, this is the way we've got to go.
9. Fredonia (16-4) [NR] -- Was impressed with their schedule the more I looked at it, as well as a major dismantling of Akron in quarters. This vote was done before Monday's game with CSAT, which remains a team just outside this ballot's top 10, which tells you how I think that one is going to go. Was very tempted to put Hillbillies ahead of East, which tells you a little of how I think the B-2 bracket will go (I think these guys just might win it).
10. Maple Grove (17-1)  -- Red Dragons certainly have an opportunity to rise up, but based on the schedule and what we saw from their league last week in sectional play, they don't warrant anything higher. We shall see.
And of course, here's our weekly edition of "why can't Maple Grove be a normal high school team and call in its games?"
Out of 32 sectional quarterfinals played last Friday, 31 were called in and ONE was not. ONE!
MAPLE GROVE, THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE. CALL YOUR GAMES INTO THE BUFFALO NEWS, just like everyone else. Thank you very much.
Nichols fell off the ballot. Certainly like the team, certainly in consideration for No. 9 or 10, but they didn't show me enough ... went with Fredonia half on a hunch. I may reassess down the road.
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