Welcome to the first Prep Talk Section VI Boys Basketball Tournament Preview Show.
We’re bringing in Buffalo News basketball pollster Chad Andrews from The View from Centercourt blog to break down perhaps one of the most exciting tournaments of the season.
Without further ado, let’s examine perhaps the most wide-open bracket:
Favorite: Niagara Falls.
Contenders: Williamsville North and Jamestown.
Top quarterfinal: No. 4 Lancaster vs. No. 5 Kenmore West.
PT: Niagara Falls is the top seed at 15-5. Defending champion Jamestown is the three seed and Williamsville North is the two seed.
Falls is obviously the favorite because they’re the No. 1 seed but do they get beyond one game at Buffalo State?
CA: I think they can get beyond one game. The question is can they win two games? Niagara Falls would get the winner of that Lancaster-Ken West game if they make it to Buffalo State. While that’s not a gimme, I definitely like Falls’ chances against either of those teams.
On the other side where you get Williamsville North playing Jamestown, that’s where it gets really interesting. They split in the regular season, Jamestown winning the most recent meeting. I like Jamestown to come out of that.
And then it comes down to Jamestown with all of its experience and winning five of the last six sectional titles against a Niagara Falls team that seems to have the athletes.
PT: I look at the coaches when reviewing the brackets. I just think great coaches have such an impact at this level. Jamestown’s Ben Drake, what can you say about him? He got his 300th win last year in the final against Falls. Seeing the Red Raiders come back and win at North, it’s hard to pick against them not getting back to the final. Drake knows how to coach them up at this stage, plus I really like how James Rojas and Zacc Kinsey are playing right now.
As far as sleepers?
CA: Lancaster started out the year getting that win at Jamestown. They ultimately split with the No. 2 and 3 seeds in Class AA so there’s no reason for them to think they can’t come to Buffalo State and string a couple of wins.
Favorite: Williamsville South.
Contenders: McKinley, South Park and Hamburg.
Top quarterfinal: No. 3 South Park vs. No. 6 North Tonawanda.
Sleeper: South Park.
PT: Williamsville South at 17-3 is the defending champion and top seed. I look at it as South and No. 2 McKinley on a collision course again at Buff State.
CA: That’s the interesting thing. You hate to be almost disrespectful to the rest of the teams in Class A-1 but you look at that bracket and it’s hard to see it going any other way.
If there was a team in that bracket who I was going to pick at having any shot at interrupting that matchup it would be, like you said, South Park because they’ve got athletes there. They’ve got that winning attitude coming off the football season. … Maybe they’ve got the winning bug.
PT: Greg Dolan has made the jump you’d expect to see after earning All-WNY fourth team as a freshman. He’s scoring more and averaging one more assist per game orchestrating Williamsville South’s offense.
CA: This is a big year at South. They really want to get to that championship. They went up to that Chaminade Tournament in December to try to help the team get ready. They put together a tough nonleague schedule.
PT: They have the one loss to Chaminade, they lost to Canisius and their only other loss is to ...
CA: Aquinas. That’s three of the top 10 state-ranked teams.
Contenders: Starpoint, Lewiston-Porter.
Top quarterfinal: No. 4 Maryvale vs. No. 5 Cheektowaga.
PT: Amherst is No. 1, Starpoint is No. 2, Lew-Port No. 3.
Ten teams. Amherst 19-1. Anything short of using the Jedi mind trick, I don’t see how anyone can take down Amherst before the final.
CA: I don’t either. Starpoint has shown it can play with teams. They went to Park and played a three-point game. They did beat Timon on a neutral court at the ADPRO Challenge. They’ve also had a couple big losses.
There’s no guarantee Starpoint gets to that game. Lew-Port doesn’t have a bad team. I think a Starpoint-Lew-Port game sets up as a nice semifinal but I don’t think the winner has anything for Amherst.
PT: Best game of the bracket I think won’t even be at Buffalo State. It’ll be Friday at Maryvale when Cheektowaga rolls in to renew acquaintances with its longtime ECIC III rival. They split the regular season meetings. Can coach Mark Kensy come up with a way to slow down Dominick Welch, who’s carried Cheektowaga all season by averaging a section-leading 29.0 points per game?
CA: I think it’s the best game in the bracket as well. … Can Kensy come up with a way to slow down Welch? I think he can.
PT: Plus Mark Kensy is like an institution at Buffalo State Sports Arena in sectionals.
CA: It says Mark Kensy Sports Arena. It’s been renamed.
Contenders: Medina, East Aurora.
Top quarterfinal: Potential battle of Orleans County with defending B-1 champion Albion visiting No. 2 Medina, should Albion win its pre-quarterfinal.
PT: Let’s move on to B-1, the Olean coronation tournament as I like to call it.
CA: Ha, ha!
PT: This is a 15-team bracket with Olean No. 1, Medina two and East Aurora three.
Can anyone possibly knock off unbeaten Olean (20-0)? Medina reached Buffalo State last year and won its first N-O title since 2009. Do the Mustangs have a shot?
CA: I might have had a little more confidence in Medina’s ability to put a scare in Olean if they hadn’t lost late in the season by 12 I think to Wilson, which was the third or fourth-best team in the N-O. My feeling all year has been that your B-1 final will be East Aurora against Olean. If that works out, it’ll be a rematch of a game from the beginning of the season where East Aurora lost to Olean by 30 points. So if the team I think is the second-best team in the bracket has already lost to Olean by 30 one time, I’m thinking we go ahead and crown Olean and get them ready for the B-1 vs. B-2 crossover.
Contenders: Roy-Hart, Gowanda, Health Sciences.
Top quarterfinal: No. 3 Gowanda vs. No. 6 Fredonia.
Sleepers: Health Sciences and Fredonia.
PT: I-Prep/Grover is the No. 1 seed a year after reaching the state semis in Class D. They have some nice pieces back.
CA: I-Prep has flown under the radar all season. I don’t think they’ve occupied a spot in the poll. They went undefeated in their league and they do have some pieces back like 6-foot-5 Davon Gant. I think I-Prep has a chance to win B-2. I was kind of late to the party of even realizing how good they are this year because they play in Yale Cup II.
PT: They get lost in the shuffle of not playing in same division as McKinley and East.
CA: B-2, top to bottom, is my favorite bracket. Roy-Hart has the pieces to win it. They have a 1,000-point scorer in Andy Xapsos. The Rams have size. The No. 3 seed, Gowanda, won a league title for the first time in 30 years.
Fredonia, which has been a ranked team all year, has the hardest road of any team to get a sectional championship. They start off as a six seed (against a team that beat them earlier in the year by two at Fredonia in Southwestern).
If the top four seeds all make it to Buffalo State, that’s a heck of a foursome to make it. It should be wide open just like Class AA.
Favorite: Cleveland Hill.
Contenders: Olmsted, Tapestry, Chautauqua Lake.
Top quarterfinal: No. 5 East at. No. 4 Ch. Lake.
PT: I’m calling this the Erie County bracket of Class C, with semifinals and finals at Jamestown Community College.
Cleve Hill earned the top seed at 15-5. Defending champion Tapestry is the No. 3 seed.
I know you’re high on Chautauqua Lake. They got perennial-contender East coming to them.
CA: I haven’t seen Chautauqua Lake but I know they have a sophomore in Devin Pope who their coach is really high on. They do have some good wins early in the season. Recently they went up to Dunkirk and scored a win fairly convincingly. I’m looking at it as Chautauqua Lake has a double-digit win over Dunkirk, which has already knocked off the No. 1 seed in the bracket.
East has to travel down there, maybe deal with some Chautauqua officiating, a big gym, a foreign atmosphere and maybe a style of basketball they’re not used to playing. I would not be shocked if Chautauqua Lake sent some shock waves and put an end to East’s sectional championship run (three straight and six titles the last eight seasons). I’m still picking East to win it but that’s as much backdrop as I can give you on Chautauqua Lake and why they have a shot.
PT: I agree with what you said. I still remember how coach Starling Bryant hustled Fredonia last year. The Panthers get beat badly at Fredonia and then a week later change up what they do and beat Fredonia for the Class B-1 title.
CA: It’s funny you brought that up because I actually went to that Fredonia game and watched them go play possum and lose by 30 points and then turn around the next week and beat them. It was a completely different game.
As much as I think Chautauqua Lake has a chance, I’m not picking against Starling Bryant because he always has his teams ready to play ball.
Favorite: Middle College.
Contenders: Holland, Silver Creek.
Top quarterfinal: No. 4 Randolph vs. No. 5 Barker.
PT: Middle College is the top seed and defending champion.
Can second-seed Holland lose to the Maple Grove/Portville winner?
CA: Absolutely. There’s a potential upset. Portville has some nice wins and played in a tough league.
My sleeper is Barker from the Niagara-Orleans League. … It’s a team that started off 2-7 but recently won at Newfane and beat Wilson after Wilson handed Medina its only league loss. I think they’re an improved team.
Contenders: Ellicottville, Franklinville.
Top quarterfinal: No. 4 Sherman vs. No. 5 Brocton.
Sleeper: Sherman/Brocton winner.
CA: Sherman has good coaching and a pretty good player in Chris Robinson. He’s in range when he walks into the gym. I like Sherman or Brocton as a sleeper.
PT: Sherman just because of coaching and winning pedigree the last two seasons.
Still, we’re talking about sleepers and all top-seeded Panama has done after a 1-2 start is win 17 straight games – including sweeps of Sherman, Brocton, Maple Grove and a split with Chautauqua Lake.
CA: Panama has quite a win streak going. The No. 2-3 game, if the seeding holds, would be a regular-season meeting between Ellicottville and Franklinville. They split the regular season.
High stakes drama in Class D. It’s too bad we’ll be locked into Buff State and unable to watch it.
PT: Exactly, except we will be at JCC on Feb. 26 for Championship Friday.
CA: Hopefully you remembered to press record.