As a pollster for the Buffalo News, I'm asked to send in my weekly ballots ranking the top ten large and small schools. The polls are based on games played through Sunday of each week. Here's a look at how I see them and some of the rationale used to get there.
1. Niagara Falls (AA) - In desperate need of some competition. The Wolverines are winning league games by an average of 46.2 points per game, with their closest league game being a 20-point win, and somehow that happened at Niagara Wheatfield. Most of that was without three-year starting point guard JJ Wilkes. Finally, 55 days after Falls last played in a competitive game, they travel to Rochester to face two of the top three Class AA programs in Section V, Webster Schroeder and Bishop Kearney, this weekend.
2. Canisius (MMA) - After a long break, the Crusaders are back in action with four games this week and finish with a bang. After visiting Timon Friday night, they travel to Rochester on Saturday to face the top team in Section V, undefeated Fairport.
3. Williamsville North (AA) - If the Spartans can win out in ECIC I, they will be the champs and likely the top seed heading into Class AA sectionals. However, the same can be said for...
4. Jamestown (AA) - the Red Raiders. As luck would have it, these two meet up again Tuesday night in the game of the week. Hopkins Road will be hoppin and the atmosphere at North will be incredible...I can't wait for this one!
5. St. Joe's (MMA) - After dropping three of four games, the Marauders pounded on Walsh. Now a pair of road games are ahead, beginning with an important trip to Timon tonight, before visiting Nichols on Thursday.
6. McKinley (A1) - Found out first hand last week that Oracle Charter was a legitimate threat to subplant Middle College as the Class C1 champs. Still, the Macks own a 17-point win over Timon and a 26-point win over Clarence, the next two teams below.
7. Timon/St. Jude (MMA) - In a week of tough schedules, the Tigers may have the toughest one. They host St. Joe's tonight and then go back-to-back with Canisius and Rochester East. Sprinkle in a midweek matchup with Niagara Catholic to keep them from resting.
8. Clarence (AA) - The Red Devils were so close with Jamestown until the fourth quarter got away from them. With the Jamestown and North games now in the rearview mirror, the focus for Clarence now becomes redemption in sectionals.
9. Amherst (A2) - They've had their share of close league games this season, and won them all. The Tigers are now 12-1 heading into a key ECIC III contest with East Aurora on Tuesday.
10. North Tonawanda (AA) - That's right, the Jacks! The losses for NT this season: Twice to Falls, Ken West, Amherst, and Oracle Charter. Not a bad loss in the bunch. Then on Friday, they score a stunning 21-point victory over Kenmore West, who has been a staple in the poll all season. Sweet Home has had its eye on this spot all season, but they had a chance with Kenmore West earlier this year and lost by 16.
1. Olean (B1) - The Huskies hope to be back in Olean by Monday after the 8:45 pm game on Saturday night at Rochester East. Much like Niagara Falls, it will be the first competitive game (with Eckstrom playing) for Olean in 50 days!
2. Silver Creek (C2) - The Black Knights can effectively lock up another CCAA II title with a win at Portville this Tuesday night.
3. Oracle Charter (C1) - Hello! The Phoenix is 14-1 and now boasts wins over McKinley and North Tonawanda. There have been a couple very good charter schools the last two seasons in Tapestry (Class C finalist in 2011) and CSAT (B2 champ last year), but Oracle is the most complete charter school I've seen in WNY.
4. East (B2) - Did not play last week, following the win against East Aurora in the MLK Classic. Wins this week against Bennett and South Park would keep the Panthers a game behind McKinley in the race for the Yale Cup.
5. Middle College (C1) - Host McKinley on Friday night in a must-win if they want to keep hope alive for the Yale Cup.
6. Nichols (MMA) - The Vikings picked up a great win over rival MMA small school St. Mary's on Friday. Chris Miner took the lead in that game for a team with multiple players capable of stepping up.
7. Cleveland Hill (B2) - Unbeaten in ECIC IV and 12-1 overall, the Eagles have a pair of roadies this week. They travel to Alden tomorrow, and then it's off to Lackawanna on Thursday....
8. Lackawanna (B1) - The Steelers are having a very good season, and they're hoping it gets even better on Thursday. The Steelers only league loss was at Cleveland Hill, in a game they were in until the final quarter.
9. St. Mary's (MMA) - The Lancers went cold late in the game at Nichols. They'll look to get back into the win column tonight at Niagara Catholic.
10. Maple Grove (C2) - Had its nonleague game with Randolph postponed due to weather last week. Only loss on the season came at Olean.