Every year, we pour hours into the All-Western New York selections.
And every year, there is one absolute guarantee: Not everyone is going to be happy.
It is the simple nature of all-star teams in high school sports. There are only so many spots for so, so many players who are candidates for those spots. We have long referred to it as the "cruel arithmetic" of putting together the All-WNY teams.
Every year there are tough, close decisions, and every year we get criticized -- which is totally fine. It's part of the deal.
This All-WNY PrepTalkMailbag is our attempt to answer some of that criticism and explain some of the reasons why we made the selections we did.
And here's the feedback we collected our first PrepTalkMailbag. This was tag-teamed by both of us, so our responses will just be labeled "Prep Talk." The comments were either emailed or tweeted at us, or were found via a simple Twitter search for "All-WNY."
* * *
@KingHollins10 tweeted: "All WNY been a joke aint nothing change.... But The way they cheated Bro @T_Reed23 for POY Dont even make sense"
@tnuttle15 tweeted: "I told myself I'd stay away from all-wny discussion this year, but after the season they had they did @T_Reed23 dirty."
Prep Talk: Do a player dirty? #preptalkyougottabekiddingus
First off, the Player of the Year is an award The News selects after consultation with several area coaches and basketball aficionados, although the News has the final call.
We do value the consultants’ input immensely, frankly because it helps make sure we’re not being blinded by our own tunnel vision and helps make the process as fair as possible.
Both Zack Panebianco of Jamestown and LaTerrance Reed of Canisius had great seasons and had their supporters. When the ballots were counted, Panebianco had a slight edge in POY votes.
That alone didn’t secure the deal for him. It still came down to a News decision. After laboring over it for several days the one question that tipped things in Panebianco’s favor was plain and simple, who was the best player for the ENTIRE season.
From start to finish, Panebianco showed he’s the best player in Western New York. He showed it last year, when he was considered for Player of the Year honors and was a first-team selection, and he continued that high level of play all the way through his eye-popping 31-point game in a regional loss to Aquinas.
Simply put, Jamestown doesn’t contend for anything without the strong-willed, athletically gifted point guard who battled through various junk defenses to lead the Red Raiders to their third straight Section VI Class AA titles. Niagara Falls triple-teamed him in the sectional final and still couldn’t prevent Panebianco from impacting the outcome of that game.
As good of a season as Reed had, and he had a season most players only experience in their dreams, there were times during the year in which it was difficult to figure out who the best player on the Crusaders was, as the distinction flip-flopped from Reed to fellow All-WNY first team pick and teammate Stafford Trueheart. In addition, in the Manhattan Cup playoffs, senior guard Josh Huffman was rightly named the MVP for his outstanding play.
Reed did earn the state Federation MVP honor as Canisius achieved that title, but overall we viewed Canisius' excellent achievement in Albany as one which impressed us most by their overall team play, not one in which Reed put the team on his shoulders -- and in our view it would have taken that kind of effort for Reed to pass Panebianco.
* * *
When Reed was named the New York State Sportswriters Association co-Player of the Year in Class A this past week, along came another wave of objections to our Player of the Year choice.
@Wizard6130 tweeted (and rocked the all CAPS with): "HOW DO LATERRANCE REED MAKE PLAYER OF THE YEAR IN NEW YORK STATE BUT DONT MAKE PLAYER OF THE YEAR IN WESTERN NY? CAN SOMEBODY ANSWER THAT!"
Prep Talk: YES WE CAN. BUT WE ARE GOING TO TURN THE CAPS LOCK OFF.
Reed was named one of the two best players in Class A, the second-largest class in the state.
Panebianco was named one of the top 11 players in Class AA, the largest class. Class AA includes the very best teams in the state: The best teams in New York City's Public Schools Athletic League, the best private schools in NYC and downstate, and of course the largest public schools throughout the state.
When Canisius won the state title in Class A, they did not do it against the highest level of competition in the state (those are in Class AA).
That's not to disrespect what Canisius accomplished. It was a rare, outstanding feat. It's just bringing some perspective to this question. In our view, being one of the top two in Class A and being named one of the top 11 in Class AA is a very similar feat, and puts both players in the same head-of-the-class consideration where we had them all along: The two leading contenders for our Player of the Year honor.
* * *
Perplexed Nardin fan asks via email: How come Alyssa Lesakowski didn’t wind up as at least an honorable mention selection?
Prep Talk: Our bad (multiple chest taps). We screwed up.
Lesakowski, a first team All-Catholic player, did earn All-Western New York honorable mention status.
Her name was mistakenly omitted from the final list that appeared in print. The problem has been rectified with our online edition. As technologically advanced as we are, sometimes a simple copy from one file and paste into another can result in a very costly turnover.
* * *
@QOllison tweeted: Complete joke. Yall people at the Buffalo news sure do love Jamestown! Smh. @T_Reed23 clearly got cheated.
Prep Talk: Canisius has got a ton of coverage in recent years, coverage that it has deserved, in multiple sports, and we stand by every single sentence.
But a complaint about our "love" of a school, from a Canisius alum who was named Buffalo News Player of the Year?
That sound you heard was every other program in WNY spitting up their Gatorade.
* * *
@katpennelly tweeted: giving Jamestown Connelly Cup Trench trophy Boys POY and Girls POY and not expecting criticism is the joke
Prep Talk: As we tweeted, we're totally good with receiving criticism. We are not a part of awarding the Connolly Cup or Trench Trophy, while our Player of the Year for football was Canisius' TJ Wheatley.
* * *
@JoeLicata16 tweeted: no state champ will south girls on the first team?
Prep Talk: No, that is correct, #preptalkalumni and former News Football Player of the Year. South had two second-teamers and three honorable mentions (it is a rare feat for a team to get all of its starters in the All-WNY chart in some capacity).
Just because a team wins a state title doesn't mean that there will be a player from that team on the All-WNY first team. Sure, there are plenty of examples where there were, but each team, each year, each player, are considered on their own. All-WNY is an individual award. Sometimes teams have great success through great team play, great teamwork, all the elements we would love to see in any team -- but while the sum of those parts are extremely special, the individual players would simply not stack up against some others.
This year's girls first team has exceptional individual players.
South had tremendous balance -- it had several players earn All-WNY votes of some sort, and we worked very hard to try and sift through things to see which Billies should be honored over others. There were some lengthy internal discussions and deep consideration of coaches' feedback.
* * *
In a stream of responses to Joe's tweet (which also included some laughable ones which we're not presenting here), there were also these South-based tweets:
@Joey_Cats tweeted: we played WS in the championship of our year end tournament at Lockport. WSouth could beat the ALL WNY 1st team. ... no disrespect to the ALL WNY team. All of those girls are deserving.Just wanted to point out how good will south actually was
Prep Talk: We absolutely loved watching Will South play and we know how good they were.
However, we have no hesitation taking our first team in this mythical matchup.
A secret to South's success this season was its ability to pick and choose when to use its depth players to provide jolts to the offense or sparks for a defensive stop. It's something the Billies did quite well until the state Federation Class A championship game. They lost to a team that had talent -- but nowhere near the amount of special players that the All-WNY first team possesses.
Now if the Billies could use a roster which included the use of their substitutes, they might have a chance.
Still, we would put our money on the super-skilled frontcourt of Jenna Einink and Emma Brinker, Western New York's all-time leading scorer in Mckenna Maycock, the oppressive defense and all-around skill of Anndea Zeigler and the outstanding overall game of Chrisanna Green, who would be a major problem for any team to defend, including South. Throw in the other four alongside Green, and look out.
All five of the first-teamers can control the game. Who do you double team? Do you triple-team anyone? Do you just play straight-up man or rely on the trapping schemes disrupting a team full of smart players? Remember, all five of the All-WNY first team picks can create their own shot or create for others. Plus Green, Maycock and Einink have played on same AAU team for years. They have on-court chemistry. We'd go with the All-WNY team, especially if you give them just one sub, say Olivia Schmidt.
* * *
@TML1000 tweeted: Sorry...but not having Martinsen on 2nd team is a CRIME
@bakebm46 tweeted: @TML1000 @bufnewspreptalk I was totally shocked... I agree with you Tim ... She was on my 1st team ballot
@BradKulak tweeted: @Ericam207 just saw the paper, congrats on being All-WNY! Should've been 1st Team!
Prep Talk: This year was rather exceptional on the girls side in that while we thought there were three clear first-teamers, after that, we thought there were about 10 legitimate candidates for first-team honors. Erica Martinsen of Williamsville East was definitely in that group. Once we filled the first team, the second team was a major headache. Two spots went to state champions from Will South, two went to returning top 20 All-WNY players in Ericka Taplin and Olivia Schmidt, and one went to a tremendous Mount Mercy senior in Emily Sheehan who pushed her team to an outstanding season.
* * *
Just as noone-will-be-happy is part of the annual All-WNY tradition, so is, sadly, someone using the P-word to protest the selections.
@Big_dawg04 tweeted: Whoever in charger of high school sports so as picking all wny and all state etc. should be fired! All politics
@King_Kj_ tweeted: All WNY Is nothing but politics
Prep Talk: Oh, sure, it's the P-word. Let's blame some hazy, meaningless, demonized term instead of considering that wow, maybe there are a lot more talented players in Western New York than we originally thought, or that whoa, there were a lot of other really good players left on honorable mention too. Or wow, maybe The News just missed it.
No, that's no fun. The P-word must be the reason why one player was picked over another. It wouldn't possibly be because the player who was picked was more deserving, or got more support on the coaches ballots.
What could and should be just a difference of opinion gets all twisted up with this weak shot attempt.
Yes, the P-word. There is no other explanation that certain people got All-WNY honors. There must be a secret agenda against certain players and schools and for other players and schools. Let's not stop there -- how about the #preptalkslushfund we have where you can buy you way onto the team!
Do we play favorites? We sure do: Our favorites are the players who we think are the best and most deserving of All-Western New York honors.
* * *
@JHellwig2 tweeted: I had over 300 pts 200 reb 100 ast and we beat Albion twice yet they have 2 players HM All-WNY and I'm not @bufnewspreptalk ... and they weren't even 1st team all league. I was the 2nd best player in the league...but that's none of my business.
Prep Talk: Jason Hellwig is a great athlete who will play college football on scholarship next fall. He posted solid numbers in leading Medina to Championship Week at Buffalo State. However, this is one of the many cases where the arithmetic is cruel. Hellwig was among the players we had on an initial honorable mention list -- but that list was too long and we had to make some tough cuts as we got to 60. The Albion players more than earned their honorable mentions, in our view, due to their run to a championship at Buffalo State with an excellent display of basketball, led by the two players on our list.
#PrepTalkSidenote: Not coming anywhere close to earning All-WNY honors was a played-out memey-Muppet sipping tea and dogging people. And we thought the P-word was weak. But, we suppose, that's none of our business.
* * *
Email from a Cassadaga Valley fan: How in the world did Cody Johnson of Cassadaga Valley not even deserve HONORABLE MENTION All-WNY? He was the leading scorer in Section VI public schools at 21.5 points per game. He was the leading rebounder in Section VI public schools at 12.8 pg. He made ALL WNY HM as a junior when he averaged less points and less rebounds in a league made up of primarily D schools. This year Cody plays in a league with 2 A schools, 3 B schools, and 2 C schools and lead the league in points scored and rebounds per game and gets absolutely no recognition from the Buffalo News. Is Cody being punished because his team won only 6 games? It's not his fault he was forced to carry the bulk of the load for the team. Remember, I'm not complaining because he was not named to the one of the top 4 teams, but not even honorable mention. GIVE ME A BREAK!!!
Prep Talk: Another case of the cruel arithmetic. Johnson, like Hellwig, was discussed as we trimmed the final list to 60. We are very familiar with his work on the court throughout his career and his numbers are impressive (we do have doubts that all teams report their statistics to the web site where those stats were cited, but that has no bearing on our decision). If we do five more spots, he's on. But we don't.
* * *
@ghostback20 tweeted: I've seen enough of Amhersts Darien Lowe and Niagara Falls ' Mikey Bermudez to not understand why they weren't on an All WNY hoops team ????
Prep Talk: Those were two other players who were discussed in the painful cutdown to our top 60.
* * *
Bobf815 tweeted: Just 1 obvious choice from Catt County in your Top 40? Take some drives SE of Buff next winter, good ball here too!!!
Prep Talk: We stand by an All-WNY team is diverse in terms of geography and leagues, from the Players of the Year to the honorable mentions. The amount of players who are from outside the Buffalo area -- on both of the teams -- is clear.
* * *
On another note, here is the best "All-WNY" tweet we found:
Another good one:
* * *
#PrepTalkSidenote: On the day that our Player of the Year story was published, we engaged in a Twitter back-and-forth on Saturday with a #preptalkalumni member who, in tweeting @bufnewspreptalk his displeasure over our Player of the Year selection, tweeted "absolute joke" over a screen shot of the story, headline and picture of the Player of the Year.
Our problem with that tweet, which was tagged with @bufnewspreptalk (we didn't go looking for it), was that it used that kind of wording above a picture of a high school athlete. We are extremely sensitive to the tone of conversations regarding high school athletes, and we though it was absolutely inappropriate to tweet in that manner.
We have no problem with anyone saying that we are an absolute joke, or that our judgement is an absolute joke. Again, that is part of the deal.
On the other hand, we have zero tolerance, especially in a tweet directed at us, for anyone using those kind of words in a tweet which includes a picture of a high school athlete.
We realize that the person who tweeted it meant to disrespect us and not the player. However, regardless of the intent, the tweet still disrespected the player. We stand by our objections to that tweet in particular, and that kind of tweeting in general.