As a pollster for the Buffalo News, I'm asked to send in my weekly ballots ranking the top ten large and small schools. This is the last time I'll vote this season, so these ballots represent where the teams finished. Here's a look at how I see them and some of the rationale used to get there.
1. Canisius (MMA) - The Crusaders, who have been dominant in the local scene now for the better part of a decade, reached the pinnacle of success this season by claiming the Federation Championship in Class A. It puts them in extremely rare company, joining Niagara Falls (AA in 2005) and Nichols (A in 2010) as the only local large schools to win the Federation. Canisius, like the 2005 Falls team, was undefeated against competition from WNY along the way.
2. Jamestown (AA) - The only area team to beat the Red Raiders was Canisius in December. Nearly returned to Glens Falls in Class AA after pushing an undefeated and significantly deeper Aquinas team to the brink in regionals. Also came within a last second shot of beating Class A state finalist Greece Athena. Easily the best Class AA public school from the Far West Region of NY State.
3. Williamsville South (A1) - After winning ECIC II, the Billies advanced to the Class A regionals for just the second time in program history, and did so with just two seniors in their rotation and a freshman point guard leading the way.
4. Nichols (MMA) - The Vikings opened their season with a win over McKinley and saw their season end when eventual Federation Champion Canisius pulled out a thrilling last second victory in the Manhattan Cup Final. Along the way, Nichols & Canisius were the only local teams to earn a victory over Class B Federation Champion Park.
5. McKinley (A1) - The Macks were undefeated Yale Cup champs and returned to Buff State for a 16th consecutive season. At the MLK Classic, McKinley stood toe-to-toe with eventual Federation Champs Canisius, before the Crusaders took their first lead in the game with just 10.4 seconds remaining.
6. Olean (A2) - Proved what an elite program they were, from the coaches to the players, winning Class A2 this season, after graduating five starters from a Class B state finalist team the season prior. Wins over Amherst, Fredonia, and Starpoint highlighted the Huskies' season.
7. Amherst (A2) - The Tigers won ECIC III and advanced to the Class A2 title game for a fourth consecutive season. Only losses were to Aquinas, Jamestown, & Olean.
8. Timon (MMA) - These Tigers had a season that included wins over Nichols, Niagara Falls, Fredonia, St. Mary's, & North Tonawanda. They also went right down to the wire in all three games played against both the Class A & Class B Federation Champions, Canisius & Park.
9. Niagara Falls (AA) - The Wolverines took another step forward with their young team, earning a share of the NFL title and advancing to the Class AA sectional championship game.
10. Williamsville North (AA) - After opening the season with a win against Timon, the Spartans finished second in ECIC I and made it to the semifinals in Class AA, following a season that included close losses to Jamestown, Williamsville South, McKinley, & Niagara Falls.
1. Park (MMA) - I began the season by suggesting this could be the team that kept Westhill from repeating as Class B Federation Champions. After winning the Class B Manhattan Cup and the Class B CHSAA State Championship, the Pioneers did just that, and then brought the Federation title back to Buffalo.
2. East (B2) - Once again, the Panthers were at their best when the season mattered most, and repeated as Section VI champs in Class B2. East took McKinley to the final buzzer in a pair of contests, split with overall Class C champ, Middle College, and missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer at regionals that would have sent them to Glens Falls.
3. Fredonia (B2) - One of the best seasons in program history included a share of the CCAA I West title after knocking off Olean, a win at St. Mary's, and a return to the Class B2 Final, where the Hillbillies came up just short against East.
4. St. Mary's (MMA) - The runner's up for the Class B Manhattan Cup had victories over St. Joe's & Lancaster, along with a 19-point win over Middle College.
5. Middle College (C2) - The Kats won their 5th Section VI title in seven seasons and advanced to regionals for a fourth time. Their season included a split with East, along with wins over Tapestry, Burgard, Lancaster, & Randolph.
6. I-Prep (D) - The only Section VI team to advance to Glens Falls this season. After winning Yale Cup II, the Presidents spoiled an undefeated season for Sherman to win Class D and then built a large lead in regionals and hung on to qualify for states. Let a double-digit lead slip away in the state semifinal and lost a heart breaker that kept them from playing for a state championship.
7. Tapestry (C1) - Won their first Section VI crown in school history, claiming the prize in Class C1 after earning a share for first in the Charter league by splitting with Health Sciences.
8. Silver Creek (C1) - The champions of CCAA I East made it to a fourth straight sectional title game and had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer.
9. Wilson (B2) - The Lakemen won the N-O and advanced to Buff State with a 17-3 record, where they nearly pulled off the upset over Fredonia.
10. Walsh (MMA) - The final spot on this ballot goes to the Eagles, who lost a few head scratchers, but also won games over Nichols, Timon, and St. Mary's during the season - something no other small school can lay claim to.