Niagara Falls was well above the rim of Western New York competition this season, and it showed in The News polls. The Wolverines received every first-place vote all season as it finished its third straight year as the No. 1 large school.
Lackawanna also went coast-to-coast this season, holding the top spot since the season's first poll Dec. 14. The Steelers spent most of the regular season ranked first in the state in Class B, won the B-1 sectional championship and advanced to the Far West Regionals for the first time since 1989.
Both polls remained similar to their previous editions March 8. The most notable change had Maryvale reaching its highest ranking at No. 4 among large schools, passing St. Joe's by one point by virtue of winning the overall Section VI Class A championship. St. Joe's lost the Manhattan Cup final to Canisius.
The last time Niagara Falls was not No. 1 among large schools was the 2002 final poll, in which Falls was edged by Bennett shortly after losing the Section VI Class A championship to the Tigers.
The Bennett loss is the only defeat by Falls to a Western New York team in the school's five seasons. The Wolverines are 123-7 all time under coach Dan Bazzani, with the other losses either coming at Glens Falls (Schenectady in the 2001 state public school semifinals) or to nationally ranked teams. Falls fell to McQuaid (Rochester) in the 2003 regionals, lost to Rufus King (Milwaukee), St. Anthony's (N.J.) and Mount Vernon in 2003-2004 and Vashon (Mo.) this season.
The Wolverines not only were the first team from Western New York to win the Federation crown in the state's largest class this season, but they were just the third public school to win the Federation in the largest class (Mount Vernon in 1991, 2000, 2004; Binghamton in 1986; and Long Island power North Babylon in 1983).
The Class AA public school title was Section VI's first largest-class win since one of Niagara Falls' ancestors, LaSalle, won back-to-back Class A titles in 1995 and 1996.
The Basketball Coaches Association of New York named Bazzani as its Section VI Coach of the Year.
The Section VI representative at this year's BCANY Upstate-Downstate All-Star Game is Lackawanna senior Ray Blackburn. The upstate team will be coached for the first time by Western New Yorkers: Sweet Home's Paul Schintzius and Hamburg's Pat Cauley. The game is Sunday at Monroe-Woodbury High.
In other BCANY awards, Chris Barrett of Williamsville South was one of four students state-wide to earn a $300 BCANY academic scholarship while Jack Jerge from IAABO Board 53 was named the Section VI Official of the Year.