The Buffalo News’ Girls Basketball Player of the Year honor will now be known as the Sister Maria Player of the Year in Western New York. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

Sister Maria Pares not only was a legendary basketball coach in Western New York, but she also was a pioneer of women's sports during her life.

It's because of that, the Buffalo News has decided to rename its girls' basketball Player of the Year honor in memory of Pares, who passed away in January from cancer complications.

The reason for naming the distinction of News Player of the Year after Pares is easy.

She fought to make sure female athletes were treated with respect from the moment she was charged with creating the athletic department at Sacred Heart, an all-girls private school, in 1973.

Pares also is one of the greatest coaches in the history of Buffalo sports, regardless of gender.

She built a basketball dynasty at Sacred Heart during her first stint there from 1974-86, which included a state championship and a winning streak of 127 games. She also coached the Sharks from 1999-2015.

She guided the program to 17 Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association championships, including its last one in 2013 – when the Sharks defeated Cardinal O'Hara in the final. That's also the last time O'Hara lost to a Western New York team.

During her first stint as Sacred Heart coach, she also piloted the women's basketball program at Canisius College (1982-86), as the Golden Griffins posted a 108-39 record during her tenure.  She also coached Division I basketball at Marquette from 1986-90.

Pares, is a member of several halls of fame, including the New York State Basketball Coaches Association and Greater Buffalo Sports halls.

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