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Girls basketball playoffs look unpredictable

When the Section VI girls basketball playoffs are over in early March, some people no doubt will lean back and say, "I knew it would turn out that way."

Chances are that they are lying. Because there are plenty of question marks about how the postseason will turn out. There are a couple of clear favorites, but after that ... who knows?

Let's take a look around Western New York and see how the field looks, with the help of some discreet experts who have provided scouting reports on the teams.

Class AA

Last Year: Williamsville North 56, Orchard Park 40.

Favorite: Clarence (18-2) is the top seed, but the Red Devils may not have earned the respect that record deserves. They are good and athletic. Ella Eckert leads the team in scoring (13.6 points per game), and Carly Reynolds is good inside.

Contenders: No. 2 Frontier (13-7) is well-balanced and already has beaten Clarence once this season. No. 3 Lockport (13-5) has been good in something of a down year in the Niagara Frontier League. The Lions have a Section VI champion on their roster already in cross country runner Carrissa DiTullio. Those two teams might put on a good show in the semifinals.

Sleepers: Teams four through six are all a bit dangerous, and sixth-seed Lancaster finished 11-9. The Legends may be a tough out.

Best potential game: A Clarence-Frontier game would be a rubber match, and could be a good one.

Class A-1

Last Year: Williamsville South 74, Williamsville East 56.

Favorite: For those looking for a prohibitive favorite in a class this year, say hello to Williamsville South. The Billies are 15-3 and ranked second among large schools. Amari DiBerry (20 ppg) has been terrific at center even though she's only an eighth grader. Williamsville South may not be as deep as its past teams but its starting five is first-rate.

Contenders: For whatever reason, the other teams in this group have had mediocre seasons at best. No. 2 Grand Island (11-10) is the only squad besides Williamsville South above .500. Hamburg (10-10) and Hutch-Tech (9-11) round out the top four seeds.

Sleepers: Realistically, any one of the top six seeds could win a game or two. But it's difficult to picture any of them winning the class with the Billies in the way.

Best potential game: The semifinal not involving Williamsville South should be competitive.

Class A-2

Last year: Lake Shore 64, Kenmore East 49

Favorites: If you spend your time watching games in only one class over the next two weeks, this is the one to see. The bracket is loaded and balanced, and the games should be close and fun. Can someone pick four favorite at once?

Contenders: No. 1 Kenmore East (18-2) has the top seed, but is by no means a lock. Kendall Mills (16.7 ppg) leads the Blue Devils. No. 2 Lake Shore (19-1) is coming back from a Section VI title last year and has been terrific. Raeann White (14.0 ppg) is a fine all-around player for the Eagles. No. 3 Amherst (16-4) has Niagara-bound Claire Wanzer (19.5 ppg) back for one last playoff run, and No. 4 Olean (17-3) is led by pure scorer Sara Pfeiffer (27.7 ppg). The Huskies moved up from B-1, where they made it to the Far West Regionals a year ago.

Sleeper: No. 5 Iroquois isn't a bad team at all. The Chiefs went 14-6 and could cause problems for someone. But this might be the wrong year for a Cinderella story.

Best potential game: Any game in the last two rounds in A-2 could be an instant classic. A Lake Shore-Amherst contest might turn out to be the game of the tournament.

Class B-1

Last Year: Olean 62, East Aurora 60

Favorite: Depew (15-5) comes into the sectionals on a roll. The Wildcats have an inside and outside threat in Aviance Clark (16.1 ppo) and Tess Borgosz (17.3), and they moved to the top of the small-school poll late in the season. Depew deserves to be the top seed.

Contenders: East Aurora looked headed to the state championships until center Emma Brinker was lost to the season because of an injury. The No. 2 Blue Devils (16-3) weren't as good without her, but to their credit they didn't fold up the tents. Julianna Misenheimer is one of the best ball-handlers in the region. Tonawanda (15-5) and I-Prep (11-3) are also in the top four seeds.

Sleeper: Look out for Fredonia (13-6) at No. 6. Hannah Cybart (18.3) is a very good player, and the Hillbillies are well-tested after a tough regular-season schedule. No. 7 Newfane (13-7), with Paige Emborsky (16.3 ppg), also appears underrated.

Best potential game: A Depew-Fredonia game might be a worthy matchup for a sectional title.

Class B-2

Last Year: Southwestern 46, Fredonia 41

Favorite: City schools Olmsted (15-3) and Buffalo Arts (16-4) are the top two seeds, but they lose points with some experts on strength of schedule. Olmsted's Gabrielle McDuffie (15.4 ppg) and Arts' Alexis Campbell (24.6 ppg) are both fine scorers. Are they enough? The guess is that the bracket will be a scramble.

Contenders: Wilson (17-3) has been great in the Niagara-Orleans League for some time, and maybe it is time for them to win it all. The Lakewomen will be tough to eliminate, thanks in part to Kayla Neumann (13.7 ppg). Medina (15-3), from the same league, is dangerous. Jene Brown averages 20 a game, and opponents shouldn't leave Maddie Williams open in three-point land.

Sleeper: Notice who the defending champion in B-2 is: Southwestern. The Trojans were 13-7 and are lurking as the No. 6 seed. Overlook them at your own risk.

Best potential game: A Wilson-Southwestern semifinal might feel like a championship matchup.

Class C-1

Last Year: Allegany-Limestone 47, Cleveland Hill 36

Favorite: There are no dominant teams here, as none of the top three seeds has more than 12 wins. No. 1 Allegany-Limestone (12-8) has seen Morgan Davis (20.6 ppg) pick up her game several steps this season, so the Gators would be the popular choice to win here.

Contenders: Seeds two through four aren't bad either. Chautauqua Lake (11-9) is capable of making noise, as it showed by beating Olean. Cleveland Hill (14-6) has a top scorer in Sydney Turley (20 ppg), and Nia Caver (24.6 ppg) does good work for Tapestry (12-5).

Sleeper: Portville checks in at No. 5 with a 15-5 record. But no one else is close to the .500 mark in the bracket.

Best potential game: A rematch between Allegany-Limestone and Cleveland Hill would have a little extra intensity because of last year's outcome.

Class C-2

Last year: Holland 58, Frewsburg 42.

Favorite: It doesn't look as if seeding means a great deal in this category. No. 3 Frewsburg had another excellent regular season at 17-3, and Gabby Iuculano is the type of big-time scorer (17.9 ppg) who can make a large difference at this time of year. The Bears frequently ranked in the top five of the small school poll. They may have enough to take that last step in the final after falling a game short in 2016.

Contenders: No. 1 Buffalo East (10-5) has the section's top scorer in Estella Anderson (29.5 ppg), and No. 2 Holland (13-7) has Cassidy Slocum to provide points (17.2). It wouldn't be a stunner to see either in the final.

Sleepers: The 4-5 game matches Randolph (10-9) and Maple Grove (11-9). They are the only other teams in Class C-2 above .500. East might have its hands full with either of them; Randolph in particular will be a difficult foe.

Best potential game: A Holland-Frewsburg game would happen in the semifinals this time instead of the finals, but it would still be worth your attention.

Class D

Last year: Panama 70, Franklinville 41.

Favorite: Franklinville (19-1) has enjoyed a great season. Danielle Haskell of the Panthers is the leading freshman scorer (and fifth overall) in Section VI at 23.6 points per game. She's the type of player who can carry a squad a long way. Sister Allyson (14.8 ppg) is more than a sidekick for Danielle, as she's capable of putting up good numbers.

Contender: Franklinville lost to Ellicottville (19-1) in the regular season, and the Eagles are the No. 2 seed. Marissa Hamilton is headed to the University at Buffalo next season, and how many Division I players come out of Class D? She is averaging more than 20 points per game.

Sleeper: Panama (15-5) is lurking as the No. 3 seed. The Panthers played a tough schedule, and are always ready for the postseason. Don't underrate them.

Best potential game: Franklinville-Ellicottville would be an appropriate final, but any game involving the top three seeds could be a very good one.

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