2016-17 champions: Section VI - Clarence (Class AA), Amherst (Class A), Williamsville South (Class A-1), Fredonia (Class B), Wilson (Class B-2), Frewsburg (Class C), Chautauqua Lake (Class C-1), Panama (Class D). Monsignor Martin - Cardinal O’Hara (Class A), Nardin (Class B).
2016-17 All-Western New York underclassmen: Second team - sophomore Danielle Haskell (Franklinville), senior Micaela Ryan (Sacred Heart), freshman Amari DeBerry (Williamsville South). Third team - senior Morgan Davis (Allegany-Limestone), senior Ella Rose Eckert (Clarence). Fourth team - senior Emma Brinker (East Aurora), sophomore Gabby Iuculano (Frewsburg), sophomore Natalie Angeletti (Panama).
What’s new?: There is no Class C-1 and C-2 this year. There are now 17 schools in one Class C bracket. Part of that is due to 13 schools changing classes from last season. They are Kenmore West down from AA to A-1, Kenmore East up from A-2 to A-1, East Aurora and Emerson up from B-1 to A-2, Olean down from A-2 to B-1, Lackawanna and Medina up from B-2 to B-1, Riverside down from B-1 to B-2, Cleveland Hill, da Vinci and WNY Maritime up from C-1 to B-2, and East and Frewsburg down from C-2 to D.
In the Monsignor Martin Association, there’s a change as to which team will represent WNY in the state playoffs. Instead of the regular season Class A champ moving up to Class AA, it will be the postseason champion moving up and the runner-up heading to states in Class A. The Catholic playoff schedule will be released in January once all facilities are in place.
Taking talents elsewhere: The only underclassman on the All-WNY first team last year was Olean’s Sara Pfeiffer. She’s no longer with the Huskies, as the junior is playing in Arizona at Seton Catholic.
Erica Martinsen, the 2015-16 News Player of the Year, played at Blair Academy in New Jersey as a junior and is currently at IMG Academy in Florida for her senior year. She officially signed with Virginia in November.
Bring on the best: Some ECIC coaches expressed their interest in bringing back the ECIC/Monsignor Martin Challenge. While there hasn’t been an official event, many public and private schools have taken it upon themselves to schedule nonleague games against each other.
A couple notable matchups include Sacred Heart at Franklinville on Dec. 14, St. Mary’s at Lake Shore on Jan. 4, Sacred Heart at Williamsville South on Jan. 31 and Cardinal O’Hara at Williamsville South on Feb. 17.
Monsignor Martin outlook: The question remains, can anyone locally beat Cardinal O’Hara? The powerhouse program entered the season on a 72-game winning streak against Western New York foes. The Hawks have only eight players on the roster this season and have to replace their top three scorers, but there’s still no shortage of talent. Six-foot-2 senior Kiara Johnson is committed to Eastern Michigan, and junior PG Angel Parker has a couple Division I suitors. Seniors Nickelle O’Neil and Cierra Harrison are capable of taking on more of a scoring role.
Sacred Heart is one of the top teams in the area with senior Micaela Ryan, junior Jennifer Grimm and sophomore Siobhan Ryan, Micaela’s younger sister. St. Mary’s of Lancaster has only one senior on the roster but a lot of the younger pieces have experience. Junior Caroline Zanghi was honorable mention All-WNY.
Mount St. Mary returns nine players and three of its top six, including center Grace O'Brien. The Thunder also welcome junior point guard Lois Garlow, who played the last two years in Utah and is a D-I lacrosse commit. Imani Dockery of Nichols is a talented player.
ECIC I outlook: Player of the Year Ella Rose Eckert is back, as are the five all-league first-teamers. The 6-foot Eckert and 6-foot-1 Carly Reynolds make up one of the top frontcourts in WNY and have Clarence among the favorites to repeat in Class AA.
Frontier is very strong at guard with honorable mention All-WNYers Kennedy Izzo, a fourth-year junior, and second-year sophomore Claire Kruszka. Orchard Park has a nice inside-outside presence with C/F Sam Fischer and PG Danielle Hore, who is back after an ACL surgery last season. Other third-year seniors include Lauren Miller, Emily Henrich and Jenna Probst.
Lancaster will go as do fourth-year seniors Molly Mahony and Hanna Wozniak. Jamestown brings back eight players, chief among them being Allison Stockwell, Macey Lundmark and Katelynn Bennett. Williamsville North has a nice shooter in third-year sophomore Audrey Craffey.
ECIC II outlook: Six-foot-5 Williamsville South freshman Amari DeBerry is already in her third varsity season and is still the youngest player on the roster. She gets only better (and taller) every year and is receiving a lot of D-I interest. Older sister Naomi DeBerry and Lauren Lassiter, one of the top shooters in the area, are in their fourth seasons as seniors. Sophomore PG Hannah Dolan has three years of experience.
Second-year Amherst freshman Emma Klein is a tremendous defender at guard, and fourth-year senior Hannah Bardeen is solid inside. The Tigers held a 32-20 halftime lead over O'Hara at the Pastor-Cooper Showcase last week but ended up losing by six, 63-57.
Juniors Rachel Romanowski and Maddy Miske lead an improved Williamsville East squad. Junior C/F Brigid McKeone is back for her third season on a young Hamburg team that will look to run the floor and play solid defense.
Starpoint junior Elizabeth Bradley lost her sophomore season due to a torn ACL. Spartans coach Jack Coppola thinks she’s a top 15 player in the area. West Seneca East could surprise with six seniors with at least three years of varsity experience.
ECIC III outlook: The 6-foot-1 Brinker is back for the Blue Devils after tearing her ACL last January, and she has a strong frontcourt mate in 6-foot junior Sarah Tully. Senior Emma Oar and sophomore sister Katie will both be factors.
Lake Shore has a new coach but the same strong guard play with senior captain Jalyn Jimerson, sophomore Sophie Snyder and sophomore sisters Noelani and Tashawni Cornfield. Iroquois has strong senior leadership with honorable mention All-WNYers Taylor Quinn and Riley Reidel, as well as Leah Shanahan.
Cheektowaga senior Ranya Rumph is on pace to crack 1,000 points and rebounds for her four-year career. Maryvale’s Christie McGee-Ross was second team all-league as a freshman.
ECIC IV outlook: Holland has an experienced trio of seniors in Cassidy Slocum, Kaitlyn Bulega and Kara Schmidt. Slocum was honorable mention All-WNY last year.
Eden is very young with three second-year freshmen and two eighth-graders. Junior Caroline Szuflita and freshman Brooke Woodard averaged nearly eight points per game last season.
Niagara Frontier outlook: Fifth-year Kenmore East senior Serena Sordetta is the lone player back from the all-league first team. Senior Alexis Lagattuta and junior Carianne McCarthy enter their third seasons for the Bulldogs.
Grand Island is athletic and led by 6-foot-1 junior Samantha Bailey and guards Julia Eichel and Lydia Sweeney. Claire Brandon was a starter as a sophomore and is back after taking her junior year off. Lockport has a nice interior duo with senior Elizabeth Mullane and junior Kourtney Krchniak.
Other players to watch include Taylor Benton and LeGary Jackson of Niagara Wheatfield, Kenmore West’s Anna Quinlan, Lew-Port’s Riley Crum, North Tonawanda’s Lindsey Piotrowski and CSAT’s Kiana King. Niagara Falls should have more size than last year.
Niagara-Orleans outlook: The road goes through Wilson no matter who the eight-time defending league champs graduate. The Lakewomen have seven seniors but lost more than 1,100 points scored from last year. Seniors Shea Munnikhuysen and Emily Kelly could be two players who step up.
Newfane is right on Wilson’s heels with eight players and three starters back. Seniors Paige Emborsky and Emily Foltz form an athletic backcourt, and Alex Littman is good inside.
Medina has a strong duo in juniors Je’Ne Brown, who has the school record for points in a season, and Maddie Williams, who can fill it up from the outside. Williams set the state record for three-pointers in a game last year with 16.
Akron is super athletic with senior Neely Abrams and junior Darion Jonathan, one of the stars of a successful volleyball team with multiple members who also play basketball. Albion has only one losing season in the last seven and had one of the top JV teams in the N-O last year. Caitlynn Snook is the top returning Purple Eagle.
CCAA East I outlook: Allegany-Limestone has seven of its top eight and four starters back who all played on the team that won a sectional title two years ago. That includes reigning league Player of the Year Morgan Davis, who should surpass 1,000 points and rebounds in her fifth and final varsity season. Third-year seniors Brooke Giardini, Molly Wolfgang and Shealynn Maley also received league honors.
Portville junior Sydney Colligan and sophomore Karly Welty were first-team all-league and are back for their fourth seasons.
CCAA East II outlook: Pick your poison with Franklinville. The Panthers have three players to beat whichever defense is thrown at them. Third-year sophomores Danielle Haskell and Abby McCoy are lethal shooters and fifth-year senior Allyson Haskell is good from inside or out.
Senior guards Kayla Hohl and Kaylee Crisanti are among the six players back on a Pine Valley team that finished 15-6 last year.
CCAA West I outlook: Fredonia’s Cybart twins are gone but senior guards Katie Price and Hannah Gullo should keep the Hillbillies at the top of their game.
Three starters are back for an intelligent Chautauqua Lake team led by third-year junior Katelyn Fardink and fifth-year senior Jesse Zenns. Senior Alanna Dibble and junior Erin Radak are the top players for Southwestern.
CCAA West II outlook: Panama has been the state runner-up in Class D the last two years and bring back fourth-year sophomore Natalie Angeletti. Junior Madalyn Bowen isn’t playing this season in order to focus on volleyball.
Frewsburg still has a dynamic guard in fourth-year sophomore Gabby Iuculano. Classmate Amanda Dilts is entering her third season on varsity.
City schools outlook: Olmsted appears to be the top team with juniors Eliza Conyers and Imani Burch and sophomore Gabrielle McDuffie running the point.
McKinley returns all five starters, including senior center Salandra Debose and junior point guard Tatiana Cook. Buffalo Arts lost a pair of guards but brings back fourth-year senior Taliah Bush. Burgard returns junior PG Derrionna Person.
Among the charter schools, Tapestry is very young with only one senior and five freshman on its roster of 10. The strength is at guard with Shai Freeman, Destiny Purdue and Jayda Smith.
Save the date: Art Dobson Tournament at Sacred Heart, Dec. 28-29; Orchard Park Tournament, Dec. 28-29; IAABO Tournament at Allegany-Limestone, Dec. 29-30; Postseason Prep Tournament at Wilson, Feb. 16-17.
Championship time: Section VI postseason brackets released, Feb. 17; Start of Section VI playoffs, Feb. 20; Section VI Class C and D finals at Jamestown Community College, March 3; Section VI Class A-1, A-2, B-1 and B-2 finals at Buffalo State, March 4; Section VI Class AA, A and B finals at Buffalo State, March 7; Far West Regionals at Section V location TBD, March 10; NYSPHSAA final four at Hudson Valley Community College, March 16-19; NYS Federation tournament at Times Union Center (Albany), March 24-26.