By Keith McShea
Every week during the basketball season a panel of voters participates in The News' large and small school boys basketball polls, which are published in Tuesday's Scholastic Spotlight.
And every week we let you know, like the title says ... how The News voted. This is just one ballot -- there are nine other voters in each poll.
Here are our previous blogs: last week (Feb. 18), Feb. 11, Feb. 4, Jan. 28, Jan. 21, Jan. 14, Jan. 7; and our first ballot (there was no blog after the second poll as I was on vacation). Here's last year's final poll.
This is the penultimate poll -- the last one before the final poll that is published as part of our All-Western New York basketball issue. We're publishing this a day earlier than we usually do (Tuesday) due to Monday's huge Section VI Class AA semifinals.
Here's this week's ballot:
1. Canisius (23-2) [last week's ballot: 1] -- Biggest favorite to win the Manhattan Cup in a very long time (actually they were pretty big favorites last year, too).
2. Jamestown (14-4)  -- The win over Frontier sure was closer than expected, but they've earned this spot with its clear wins over North and Clarence (albeit in the very cozy confines of their home gym). It just has to be said -- and this has been the case all season -- that No. 2 is a whole lot closer to No. 6 on this ballot than No. 2 is to No. 1. Red Raiders game with No. 6 tonight could be a great one based on Lockport's last game. The edge has to go to Jamestown, especially when you throw the performances that coach Ben Drake and his program have put together at Buffalo State in recent years.
3. Bishop Timon-St. Jude (14-11)  -- Staying with the Tigers despite the very close call against St. Francis (a team that played very well in the last weeks of the season but a team Timon had beaten twice and I think that has something to do with how the game went). I think Timon, the ECIC I trio and now the clear-cut Niagara Frontier League top team are very tough to rank. For the umpteenth time, we hate hanging our hoop hat on December games, but Timon did beat North in the only nonleague pairing among the top six teams on this ballot.
4. Williamsville North (15-4)  -- Took care of business against an overmatched Falls team at home. It's Buffalo State tonight against ...
5. Clarence (15-3)  -- ... the Red Devils. Poll-wise, they should clearly be behind North based on their not-close home loss in the teams' second meeting.
6. Lockport (15-4)  -- What a display in winning at Kenmore West. Was tempted to move them up a spot or two ... If they can put forth a repeat performance tonight, look out Jamestown.
7. McKinley (13-6)  -- They're in about the same spot in the poll that they were last year about this time, before winning a couple of championships. Team to beat in A-1.
8. Kenmore West (14-4)  -- Despite BIG loss to Lockport, own a recent win over St. Joe's.
9. St. Joe's (12-13)  -- Keeping them in the same spot despite two losses to St. Mary's, including one to end it season. I'd have St. Mary's pretty high on an overall poll list (despite their losses to some large schools this year).
10. Cheektowaga (13-6)  -- Again giving the Warriors the edge here over the champion of their league, Amherst, due to Cheektowaga beating Amherst twice. If both teams win semifinals at Buffalo State, they'll meet again for the A-2 title on Saturday (which would be excellent).
1. Olean (16-3)  -- Tuesday's a really good one at Buffalo State. See always-smart Depew throw everything they can at these guys at 8:30. That's after Fredonia plays at 7, after East plays at 5:30.
2. Middle Early College (14-5)  -- Assumed C-1 final should be fun whether it's Barker or Silver Creek.
3. St. Mary's (19-6)  -- Really like how these guys play, have for several seasons. Solid win with everything on the line against St. Joe's at Timon. Impressive enough to move them up a spot. Poised to claim the Monsignor Martin's Class B berth.
4. East (16-3)  -- Teams two through four on this ballot are a significant step behind Olean and a significant step above others. See No. 1. Panthers play a Health Sciences team which has been on the small school top 10 bubble for much of the season.
5. Nichols (17-8)  -- Simply stunning margin of victory over Park in MMA quarterfinal.
6. Fredonia (15-4)  -- Take on Tonawanda in semifinals, where they were impressive last year in gaining a matchup with East. Now they seek to likely gain a matchup with Olean. Tough neighborhood.
7. Barker (19-0)  -- The only unbeaten takes on Silver Creek at JCC Tuesday in their biggest test of the season.
8. Park (12-11)  -- Uneven second half and very sudden ending drop them a spot. Was tempted to drop them further.
9. Cleveland Hill (14-4)  -- Could be a fun one Wednesday with Salamanca, a team getting votes in this similar area of other pollsters' ballots.
10. Sherman (18-1)  -- We continue to like the Class D top seed slightly ahead of the evenly-matched duo of Salamanca and Randolph.
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