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Section VI field of 80 teams to give it their best shot

A capsule look at the Section VI Girls Basketball Tournament which tips off today:

>Class AA

Favorite: Momentum is a big factor this time of year and Lockport has plenty knocking off a previously unbeaten top 10 team in the state. In Saturday's nine-point win over II-Shenendehowa, the Lady Lions performed at their highest level of the season. They made the necessary adjustments against their visitors to pull out a fabulous win.

Challengers: Lancaster looks to take that next step after winning ECIC I (12-0) for the first time since 1998.

Sleepers: Kenmore West is in the conversation as its capable of upsetting anyone. The Blue Devils combine speed and quickness and an in-your-face style that is hard to prepare for. Jamestown is ending the season with a different coach than it started after Ken Ricker was forced to step down following an ugly incident with a player during a game. The Red Raiders, now led by Bill Canfield, are still a determined bunch capable of making a run.

Best matchup before NCCC: Two good ones are simmering: Lockport-Jamestown and Kenmore West-Lancaster in the semifinals.

>Class A-1

Favorite: No. 1 seed Grand Island is a solid favorite with an inside-outside game of reigning Player of the Year Kallie Banker and center Cassie Oursler. The duo helped lead the Vikings win back-to-back Niagara Frontier League titles.

Challenger: ECIC II champ Hamburg has won 12 in a row, and hasn't lost since Jan. 3 against Immaculata.

Sleepers: Anyone on the opposite side of the bracket from Grand Island including Lake Shore, Kenmore East and Hutch-Tech. Tech won Division I of the Canisius Cup and has a 17-1 record.

Best matchup before NCCC: If they meet in the quarterfinals, Hamburg may beat Kenmore East just on size, but Ken East is a tough, scrappy team.

>Class A-2

Favorite: Pioneer has been the No. 1 seed in this class the last six years, reaching the final all six times. The Panthers have won three of the last four titles, but this year they are a No.1 seed with five losses. Pioneer had only lost five games in the last two years combined. This year it lost five by December.

Senior Mikaela Connelly is a four-year starter averaging 14.2 ppg. She will play at Buffalo State next year for former Pioneer head coach Max Payne, who's an assistant coach. Sophomore Jacque Law hits the boards hard and junior Shannon Rogers can penetrate and dish.

Challengers: East Aurora handed Pioneer its first league loss in six years, snapping the Panthers' streak of 63 league wins in a row. The Blue Devils are strong in the backcourt with Taylor Potenza and three-point threat Erin Nason.

Sleepers: Lew-Port plays larger schools in the NFL all season. Cheektowaga handed East Aurora one of its league losses.

>Class B-1

Favorite: Springville has a nice mix of athletes led Olivia Emerling and Alex Wiede. Emerling is a four-year starter, who hit 1,000 points two games ago on Senior Night. Sophomores Tia and Alena Woodarek, who are twins, bring that soccer competitiveness.

Challengers: No. 4 seed Eden has the experience from having won the overall Class B championship last year. Jenna Phillips is a good outside shooter for the Raiders. No. 3 seed Tonawanda tied with Eden for the ECIC IV title.

Sleepers: Olean has a nice win over Pioneer in the IABBO Tournament. Olean was hurt seedings-wise after losing to Dunkirk in the second game of the season. Olean junior Emily Bantelman and freshman forward Rachel Painter lead the Huskies.

Olean got beat by lopsided scores playing Lockport and Lancaster in the Lockport Tournament, but all was not lost.

"The whole goal in a late-season tournament against quality competition is you hope it raises your level of play," said coach Don Scholla. "You want the kids to step up. We tell them you're not going to see teams that tough in our class. We hope this prepares us, and at the same time, hope it is doesn't demoralize us."

No. 8 Dunkirk has a favorable seed playing Newfane and Buffalo East in the first two rounds. Khee Nance and Alayna Carlson are pretty solid players for the Marauders.

Best matchup before NCCC: Eden hosts Olean in a matchup between two fairly even teams. Their only common opponent was Holy Angels, whom they both lost to.

>Class B-2

Favorite: No. 1 seed Southwestern won CCAA I for the first time since 1994. Six-footer Jenny Thies, who has signed with Division II Gannon University in Erie, Pa., joins Maureen Scully (1983-84) as the only 1,000-point scorers. The Trojans look to regain their form from when they won Class B-2 back-to-back in 2004-05 and 2005-06.

Challengers: No. 5 Allegany-Limestone took Southwestern into overtime before losing. "We're definitely not in awe of Southwestern. If we get a third opportunity to play them, we'll certainly show up and do that," said coach Gators coach Frank Martin.

Sleepers: Gowanda, led by forward Alexa Farner, handed Southwestern its only league loss. The No. 6 seed is on the favorable side of the bracket and would not meet Southwestern until the final.

Best matchup before NCCC: Roy-Hart and Wilson for the third time, they won on their home courts and shared the Niagara-Orleans League title with 12-2 records.

>Class C-1

Favorite: With only two teams out of seven with above .500 records -- Tapestry (16-2) and Holland (11-6) this one is a pick 'em.

Challengers: No. 6 Barker (5-13) plays larger schools all year as the only Class C school in the Niagara-Orleans League.

Holland four-year starter Candis Kapuscinski averaged 18.5 ppg., including a season-high 31 against JFK. Guard Olivia Schmidt has been starting all season as an eighth-grader. She's been in double figures in 17 of 18 games with a season high 21 versus Cleveland Hill. "She's learned from Kapuscinski how to see the floor and make those diagonal passes around zone," said Holland coach Dan Parker.

Sleepers: Cassadaga Valley (9-9) is led by senior point guard Taylor Storer, a 1,000-point scorer who averages 15 ppg. She had eight three-pointers in the final regular-season game against Gowanda.

"We spent the year banging heads with Portville, Randolph and Frewsburg," said Cassadaga Valley coach Mark Petersen. "Our division was kind of hang on, and then just want to be a nightmare for someone toward the playoffs. That's what I sold to the kids on."

Best matchup before Jamestown: Cassadaga Valley-Holland if they meet in the semifinal, both teams are strong in the backcourt.

>Class C-2

Favorite: Very strong bracket with No. 1 Frewsburg, No. 2 Randolph and No. 3 Portville, who have taken turns beating each other. In CCAA II, Frewsburg beat Portville twice and split with Randolph. Randolph and Portville split.

The CCAA II champion Bears are carried by junior Shawna Raymond (17-2 ppg.), who is 50 points shy of becoming the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,114 points, along with Emily Foy (13.1) and Reyanne Strong (10.2).

Challengers: Randolph (15-3) has a 19-game home winning streak dating back to Jan. 10, 2010 against Portville. The Cardinals are shooting 45 percent from the floor. Senior Marah Maycock averages 18.5 and has 2,184 points in her career. She plans on playing volleyball at Edinboro. Her 5-10 freshman sister, McKenna, averages 20 ppg., and has 866 career points in three seasons.

Both know how to handle big game situations as Class D state volleyball finalists last fall. "She's [McKenna] pretty versatile," said coach Shawn Huntington. "She can do anything, shoot the three, drive and hit the runner, score on the block."

Portville is hoping to get back Emily Simon, who suffered a shoulder injury against Cassadaga Valley.

Sleepers: No. 4 Chautauqua Lake lost its starting point guard, Courtney Hewes, to a season-ending wrist injury. The Thunderbirds lost four of their last five after she went down.

Best matchup before Jamestown: Randolph and Portville could meet in the semis.

>Class D

Favorite: No. 2 Clymer (17-1) has won 17 in a row since a season-opening loss to Chautauqua Lake in the Westfield Tournament. The Pirates are strong in the post with 6-foot junior Dani Reinwald (20.0 ppg). The backcourt is a strength as well with Lauren Eggleston and Jo-Linda Rhodes.

Challengers: No. 6 Panama took Clymer to overtime in its last matchup. And Sherman played the Pirates in a 10-point game.

Sleepers: CCAA III champ and No. 3 Ellicottville has some size in the post with 5-11 juniors Janae Hamilton and Madison Szpaicher.

Best matchup before Jamestown: No. 4 Pine Valley and No. 5 Sherman, two schools with a lot of success in the postseason, could meet in the quarters.

email: mmonnin@buffnews.com