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PrepTalk mailbag: Trying to answer the critics of News’ ALL-WNY selections

Every year, we pour hours and hours into the All-Western New York selections.

And every year, there is one absolute guarantee: Not everyone is going to be happy.

It is the simple nature of all-star teams in high school sports. There are only so many spots for so, so many players who are candidates for those spots. We have long referred to it as the “cruel arithmetic” of putting together the All-WNY teams.

Every year there are tough, close decisions, and every year we get criticized – which is totally fine. It’s part of the deal.

This All-WNY Prep Talk Mailbag is our attempt to answer some of that criticism and explain some of the reasons why we made the selections we did. This was tag-teamed by both of us, so our responses will just be labeled “Prep Talk.” The questions and comments were either emailed or tweeted at us, or were found via a simple Twitter search for “All-WNY.”

For a longer version with additional questions and answers, go to the Prep Talk blog at

@KingHollins10 tweeted: “All WNY been a joke aint nothing change. ... But The way they cheated Bro @T_Reed23 for POY Dont even make sense”

@tnuttle15 tweeted: “I told myself I’d stay away from all-wny discussion this year, but after the season they had they did @T_Reed23 dirty.”

Prep Talk: First off, the Player of the Year is an award The News selects after consultation with several area coaches and basketball aficionados, although the News has the final call. Both Zack Panebianco of Jamestown and LaTerrance Reed of Canisius had great seasons and had their supporters. Panebianco had a slight edge in POY votes.

That alone didn’t secure the deal. It still came down to a News decision. After laboring over it for several days the one question that tipped things in Panebianco’s favor was plain and simple, who was the best player for the ENTIRE season.

From start to finish, Panebianco showed he’s the best player in Western New York. He showed it last year, when he was considered for Player of the Year honors and was a first-team selection, and he continued that high level of play all the way through his eye-popping 31-point game in a regional loss to Aquinas.

Simply put, Jamestown doesn’t contend for anything without the strong-willed, athletically gifted point guard who battled through various junk defenses to lead the Red Raiders to their third straight Section VI Class AA title.

As good of a season as Reed had, and he had a season most players only experience in their dreams, there were times during the year in which it was difficult to figure out who the best player on the Crusaders was, as the distinction flip-flopped from Reed to fellow All-WNY first team pick and teammate Stafford Trueheart. In the Manhattan Cup playoffs, senior guard Josh Huffman was rightly named the MVP for his outstanding play.

Reed did earn the state Federation MVP honor as Canisius achieved that title, but overall we viewed Canisius’ excellent achievement in Albany as one which impressed us most by their overall team play, not one in which Reed put the team on his shoulders – and in our view it would have taken that kind of effort for Reed to pass Panebianco.

When Reed was named the New York State Sportswriters Association co-Player of the Year in Class A this past week, along came another wave of objections to our Player of the Year choice.


Prep Talk: YES WE CAN.

Reed was named one of the two best players in Class A, the second-largest class in the state. Panebianco was named one of the top 11 players in Class AA, the largest class. Class AA includes the very best teams in the state: The best teams in New York City’s Public Schools Athletic League, the best private schools in NYC and downstate, and of course the largest public schools throughout the state. In our view, being one of the top two in Class A and being named one of the top 11 in Class AA is a very similar feat, and puts both players in the same head-of-the-class consideration where we had them all along: The two leading contenders for our Player of the Year honor.

Perplexed Nardin fan asks via email: “How come Alyssa Lesakowski didn’t wind up as at least an honorable mention selection?”

Prep Talk: Our bad (multiple chest taps). We screwed up.

Lesakowski, a first team All-Catholic player, did earn All-Western New York honorable mention status.

Her name was mistakenly omitted from the final list that appeared in print. The problem has been rectified with our online edition. As technologically advanced as we are, sometimes a simple copy from one file and paste into another can result in a very costly turnover.

@JoeLicata16 tweeted: “no state champ will south girls on the first team?”

Prep Talk: South’s tremendously balanced squad had two second-teamers and three honorable mentions (it is a rare feat for a team to get all of its starters in the All-WNY chart in some capacity). Just because a team wins a state title doesn’t mean that there will be a player from that team on the All-WNY first team. Sure, that does happen often, but each team, each year, each player, are considered on their own. All-WNY is an individual award. Sometimes teams have great success through great team play, great teamwork, all the elements we would love to see in any team – but while the sum of those parts are extremely special, the individual players would simply not stack up one-on-one against some others.

@Joey_Cats tweeted: “we played WS in the championship of our year end tournament at Lockport. WSouth could beat the ALL WNY 1st team. ... no disrespect to the ALL WNY team. All of those girls are deserving. Just wanted to point out how good will south actually was.”

Prep Talk: We absolutely loved watching Will South play and we know how good they were. However, we have no hesitation taking our first team in this mythical matchup.

We would put our money on the super-skilled frontcourt of Jenna Einink and Emma Brinker, Western New York’s all-time leading scorer in Mckenna Maycock, the oppressive defense and all-around skill of Anndea Zeigler and the outstanding overall game of Chrisanna Green, who would be a major problem by herself for any team to defend against.

@TML1000 tweeted: “Sorry... but not having Martinsen on 2nd team is a CRIME”

@BradKulak tweeted: “@Ericam207 just saw the paper, congrats on being All-WNY! Should’ve been 1st Team!”

Prep Talk: This year was rather exceptional on the girls side in that while we thought there were three clear first-teamers, after that, we thought there were about 10 legitimate candidates for first-team honors. Erica Martinsen of Williamsville East was definitely in that group. Once we filled the first team, the second team was a major headache. Two spots went to state champions from Will South, two went to returning top 20 All-WNY players in Ericka Taplin and Olivia Schmidt, and one went to a tremendous Mount Mercy senior in Emily Sheehan who pushed her team to an outstanding season.

@JHellwig2 tweeted: “I had over 300 pts 200 reb 100 ast and we beat Albion twice yet they have 2 players HM All-WNY and I’m not.”

Email from a Cassadaga Valley fan: “How in the world did Cody Johnson of Cassadaga Valley not even deserve HONORABLE MENTION All-WNY?”

@ghostback20 tweeted: “I’ve seen enough of Amhersts Darien Lowe and Niagara Falls ‘ Mikey Bermudez to not understand why they weren’t on an All WNY hoops team ????”

Prep Talk: This is one of the many cases where the arithmetic is cruel. All of these players were on an initial honorable mention list, we had to make some tough cuts as we got to our list of 40 honorable mentions (for 60 total All-WNY picks). The Albion players more than earned their honorable mentions, in our view, due to their run to a championship at Buffalo State with an excellent display of basketball.

Bobf815 tweeted: “Just 1 obvious choice from Catt County in your Top 40? Take some drives SE of Buff next winter, good ball here too!!!”

Prep Talk: We stand by an All-WNY team that is diverse in terms of geography and leagues, from the Players of the Year to the honorable mentions. The amount of players who are from outside the Buffalo area – on both of the teams – is clear.

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