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Best of 2015-16: The Final Power 10

I’ve come to grips that compiling the Final Power 10 of the school year, which ranks the best of the scholastic fall, winter and spring sports seasons into one poll, is simply a difficult task.

While narrowing down this list wasn’t as tough as doing the same to last year’s – when an astounding 15 teams won state championships in their respective sports, the number of worthy champions from past rankings still outnumbers the 10 spots available in this poll.

What does this all mean?

The only guaranteed spots in this Power 10 belong to the three teams that earned No. 1 status in their respective season-ending Power 10, with one of them obviously being the overall No. 1 for the school year.
Also, only the teams to earn a 1-10 spot in one of the season-ending Final Power 10s received consideration for placement in the year-ending Power 10. Thirty teams vying for 10 spots.

Yes, it’s a cruel arithmetic that even comes with a spoiler alert. Anyone who attended the Prep Talk Awards or read our Prep Talk Awards coverage online or in print knows which team is the overall Power 10 champion.

So without further ado …

1. Canisius volleyball. The Prep Talk Team of the Year went 34-0 to post its first unbeaten season. Along the way toward securing its 16th straight Monsignor Martin Association regular-season and playoff championship, Canisius won six in-season tournaments playing a schedule that included national and state powers. The Catholic High School Athletic Association does not offer a season-ending state tournament in boys volleyball like it does for girls volleyball, but the Crusaders earned the right to be considered the “real state champions” because they defeated three of the four teams to reach the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Final Four, including eventual state Class A champion Rochester McQuaid twice.

2. South Park football. Sparks became the first former Harvard Cup program to not only win a Section VI title but turned a historic season into one of the top local sports stories of 2015 by winning the state Class A championship. Along the way, South Park earned some love (OK, it was just a mention but a big one) in the ESPN 30 for 30 short film about Maine-Endwell as being the team that ended the Spartans’ record 62-game winning streak and march to a fifth straight state title.

3. East Aurora cross country. Second straight year the Blue Devils’ boys and girls teams land a spot in the Final Power 10, but this time they move up seven spots. Both teams not only won state titles for the second year in a row but both also had repeat individual state champions in Kenny Vasbinder and Sophia Tasselmyer. Cross country’s triumphant efforts fueled EA’s run to Prep Talk Program of the Year honors for all sports.

4. Olean boys basketball. Our first non-fall sport, the Huskies came within an eyelash of a perfect season as a four-point loss in the final basketball game of the season, the Federation Class B final, ruined the state public school champions’ run to a 29-0 record. Among the Huskies’ seven playoff wins was a triumph over previously unbeaten Hudson in the state semifinals with the Section II champions basically playing a home game before a mostly pro-Hudson crowd of more than 2,000 at Glens Falls Civic Center.

5. Canisius baseball. Crusaders had perhaps their best season ever under 25th-year coach Bryan Tenney, which is heady stuff considering they entered 2016 regarded as one of the top programs in all of Western New York. After suffering its only loss to a team from Maryland during its season-opening trip down south, Canisius won its final 21 games, capping a 23-1 campaign by winning their 13th Georgetown Cup playoff championship during Tenney’s tenure.

6. Eden girls volleyball. The machine rolls on. Raiders win seventh straight state title to cap 17th straight appearance in the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association final four. With Prep Talk Player of the Year Sam Burgio and a few other experienced champions slated to return, it’s not far-fetched to expect more good things from the Raiders in 2016.

7. St. Joe’s hockey. If not for Olean boys basketball’s sensational season, the Marauders would have earned their second winter Power 10 championship in four years under coach Rich Crozier. St. Joe’s ended the season on a 21-game winning streak – handing unbeaten St. Anthony’s (L.I.) its only loss in the state Catholic final for their fourth title in six years. Marauders (26-2-1) also won Mount St. Charles Holiday Faceoff Classic for the first time in 18 tries. Another program highlight, St. Joe’s alumnus Cole Schneider made his NHL debut in April with his hometown Buffalo Sabres.

8. Canisius basketball. The Crusaders won their second straight Manhattan Cup title as Monsignor Martin playoff champions in thrilling overtime fashion over last year’s state Class B Federation champion Park. Canisius followed that triumph by winning the state Catholic Class A title for the second year in a row. Program-record 26-win season came to end at hands of eventual state Federation champion Albany Academy, the team Canisius beat in the Federation championship game in 2015.

9. Middle Early College boys basketball. An all-senior starting five led by All-Western New York picks Gary Foster (first team) and JoJo Staton (third team) put on a clinic of how to play exceptional team basketball at Glens Falls en route to capturing the Class C crown, the program’s first state championship since 2010.

10. Kenmore East hockey. The other state champion from the Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation, the Bulldogs’ offense got hot when it mattered most (during the playoffs) and capitalized on home-ice advantage throughout the NYSPHSAA Tournament. They ended Skaneateles’ reign as state Division II champions with a 3-2 overtime win in the final at HarborCenter.

Honorable mention: Lancaster track and field, St. Mary’s girls volleyball, Portville girls volleyball, East Aurora boys soccer, Orchard Park softball, Williamsville East baseball, Fredonia baseball, Grand Island boys soccer, Cardinal O’Hara girls basketball, Wilson girls soccer, Cheektowaga football, Orchard Park boys tennis, Monsignor Martin girls hockey, Williamsville North girls basketball, Williamsville South boys basketball, Sacred Heart basketball, Hamburg boys lacrosse, Depew softball, Lancaster girls lacrosse, Orchard Park boys lacrosse.

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