Sometimes great teams need a break here or there in a winner-take-all situation in order to turn championship dreams into reality.
May we present the Williamsville East and Depew softball teams, North Collins baseball and St. Joe's lacrosse. Each squad made runs to respective state championship games. The first three teams dropped one-run heartbreakers in each's first appearance in a state final, with the Eagles almost becoming the first Section VI team to secure a New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association championship in baseball since Fredonia back in 2013.
A well-placed grounder, an interference call at home plate and an error on a potential inning-ending putout that could have ushered extra-inning drama all played roles in those Section VI champions losing on the final day of games being played in the Empire State.
Meanwhile, St. Joe's ran into the wrong kind of opponent – a sizzling one – in its attempt to join Bishop Timon-St. Jude as the only Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association lacrosse champions to get the better of the downstate champ in the New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association final.
While no area teams captured state championships this spring, there were some talented individuals who thrived at the state track and field meet. That prevented Western New Yorkers from being completely shutout of championship glory during the spring.
Without further ado, here's the final installment of the spring Power 10.
1. Williamsville East softball. The Flames' formula for success all season was not much of a secret. Chris Durr's team had a lineup full of quality hitters who consistently got the bat on the ball. The Flames also had fundamentally sound fielders behind a pitcher who threw strikes. Normally, all of that is enough to produce a state title, unless you run into a similar team (and hit solid shots at fielders for outs with runners on base) – as Williamsville East (19-4) did in dropping a 1-0 decision in the final to defending Class A champion Maine-Endwell of Section IV. A grounder in the hole with two outs in the bottom of the sixth produced the opening for the only run of the state final. The Flames' only other losses came against a team that won the Section VI Class AA title (Williamsville North) and the then reigning Section VI Class A champion (West Seneca East). Quality season by the Flames, as Prep Talk Coach of the Year Durr guided his third different sports program at Williamsville East (girls soccer and girls basketball) to a state final four appearance during his tenure at the school.
2. St. Joe's lacrosse. The Marauders (16-5) went unbeaten (12-0) against Western New York teams on their schedule en route to winning their second straight playoff championship. They also scored a quality non-league win over eventual state Class D champion Christian Brothers Academy of Syracuse. (Quick rant: Why is CBA, a private school with a roster of 35, playing in the smallest classification of the state public schools tournament? End of rant.) St. Joe's quest to win the state Catholic title comes up short with loss to a Kellenberg team that won 12 of its final 15 games.
3. Depew softball. After losing in the state semifinals last year, the Wildcats' goal was to return to the final four and reach the championship game. Depew (18-6) did just that, riding a Karsen Cotton no-hitter into the final. Best season in program history ended with tough 1-0 loss to Solvay, in which an interference call on catcher on bang-bang play at home produced what turned out to be the winning run.
4. Sweet Home track and field. Junior Nathaniel Davis' record-setting campaign turned into an undisputed state championship one, as his performance during the postseason helped the perennial area power land a coveted spot in the top 10. A week after leading a Panthers crew that won six events at sectionals (Davis had a hand in four of them), he captured the Federation title as overall state champion in the 200-meter dash via photo finish. He also anchored the 4x100 relay team's run to state championship glory at Union-Endicott. Also, teammate Chris Nowak quietly had a hand in three of the championship wins at sectionals. Boys team posted top score among large schools at ECIC meet. Pair of Panther girls also won sectional titles.
5. Akron boys lacrosse. Fourth time proved to be the charm for the Tigers (18-2), who rallied and beat old nemesis Penn Yan in overtime to become first Section VI team to win a Far West Regional game since Hamburg back in 2013. Title dream ended with a not-so-close loss in the semifinals in a state No. 1 versus No. 2 clash with second-ranked CBA of Syracuse rolling. It should be noted that both of Akron's losses this season came against private schools (the Tigers also lost to MMHSAA runner-up Canisius).
6. St. Joe's baseball. Sixth-inning rally in decisive Game Three of the Georgetown Cup championship series enabled fourth-seeded Marauders (18-9) to capture first championship in four years and deny a very good second-seeded St. Mary's team that came within six outs of winning its first Cup since 1980. St. Joe's also swept top-seed, archrival and defending champion Canisius along the way to the crown.
7. Frontier girls lacrosse. The Falcons finally got the better of longtime nemesis Lancaster in the biggest game of the season, beating the five-time defending champion Legends in the Class A final to win their first Section VI title since 2011 – the last time they defeated Lancaster for the crown. Falcons suffered only loss of the season to eventual state champion Pittsford in Far West Regionals.
8. Clarence baseball. All the Red Devils (19-6) did was quietly go about their business and win. They stepped into the limelight with a Devil of a batting show during a 17-2 Class AA final win over Williamsville North to capture their first sectional crown since 2013. Three losses came to teams that won postseason titles, including a 3-2 defeat to the Marauders at St. Joe's.
9. Williamsville North softball. The Spartans (15-7-1) hit their stride during the postseason under first-year coach Michelle Switzer, taking down then state No. 1 Lancaster and two-time defending Class AA champion Orchard Park in order to win their first Section VI title since 2009.
10. North Collins baseball. Tough ending to a memorable season, as veteran Eagles crew (15-6) came within three outs of winning the school's first state title in a sport since soccer's championship back in 1994.
-- Fredonia baseball. The Hillbillies won their second straight overall Class B sectional title. They have won either the B-1, B-2 or overall Class B Section VI title 10 of the past 13 years.
-- Grand Island boys lacrosse. Vikings seized the day in Class C, winning first Section VI title since 2000.
-- Lake Shore girls lacrosse. Class C champion Eagles went unbeaten against Western New York teams with Borrelli Award and Prep Talk Player of the Year Shayla Scanlan leading the charge. Scanlan is off to Louisville, but Division I commits Ivy Santana and Jalyn Jimerson return for an Eagles team looking to win their fourth Section VI title in five years.
-- Lancaster track and field. The Legends had another fine season as usual, winning five events at sectionals. Paul Kemsley becomes latest Lancaster thrower to win state and Federation title.
-- North Collins softball. It was quite the exciting spring for the school as softball joined baseball as first-time participant in the state final four. Young Eagles' thrilling run ended in semifinals to the team that has proven to be kryptonite to Section VI Class D champions (see Panama girls basketball) in recent years – Heuvelton of Section X.
-- Olean softball: Class A-2 champion Huskies (16-6) almost derailed Williamsville East's run to the state final (and top of this Power 10), dropping a tough walk-off 2-1 decision in 10 innings in the overall Section VI Class A final. Olean had won 10 straight before that loss.
-- Orchard Park boys lacrosse: Twenty-five Section VI titles in 27 years. Enough said.
-- Orchard Park boys tennis: A team state tournament similar to the one established for wrestling is desperately needed for this sport. Pretty sure the Quakers, who have won 81 straight league matches, would thrive in such a setting.
-- St. Mary's softball. Cruel arithmetic prevents Lancers from being in the top 10 (like the other high honors teams), but that doesn't change the fact they had a fine season in capturing their second Monsignor Martin championship in three years.
-- Tapestry track and field. Nia Stevens and the rest of her 4x100 relay teammates reign supreme again as state champions, with Stevens also winning second straight state crown in 200.
Honorable mention: Alden baseball, Alden tennis, Allegany-Limestone baseball, Amherst tennis, Canisius rowing, Canisius tennis, City Honors rowing, Chautauqua Lake softball, East Aurora girls lacrosse, Eden boys lacrosse, Hamburg boys lacrosse, Hamburg girls lacrosse, Hutch-Tech track and field, Lancaster baseball, Lancaster softball, Lockport track and field, Maple Grove baseball, Maple Grove softball, Medina softball, Mount St. Mary lacrosse, Mount St. Mary rowing, North Tonawanda track and field, Olean baseball, Olmsted girls track and field, Orchard Park softball, Orchard Park track and field, Nardin rowing, Nardin track and field, Nichols rowing, Portville softball, St. Joe's rowing, St. Joe's track and field, St. Mary's baseball, Southwestern track and field, Starpoint tennis, West Seneca West track and field, West Side rowing, Williamsville East baseball, Williamsville North baseball, Williamsville South baseball.