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Power 10: Miguel Rodriguez ranks the best of the winter scholastic sports season

Note: This was originally published Jan. 26, 2019

Here is the first Power 10 for the 2018-19 winter sports season.

(Through Friday’s games)

1. Park boys basketball. Last year’s winter Power 10 champion begins in the top spot, but it’s all about what the Pioneers have done this season. With just two returning starters in the fold (Noah Hutchins and Quentin Nnagbo), the defending state Federation champions have still beaten all comers except California school Long Beach Cal Poly (70-61 loss), which has produced the most NFL talent (over 60 players) than any other high school in the country. That has resulted in the Pioneers earning The News’ top-ranked large school ranking as well as the No. 1 spot in the New York State Sportswriters’ Class A poll.

2. St. Mary’s girls basketball. I’ll admit the state rankings influenced me when picking the No. 1 for this Power 10. Otherwise, the unbeaten Lancers would be higher than No. 2. Nonetheless, St. Mary’s has looked the part of a championship contender during its 15-0 start. Lancers are first Monsignor Martin team to beat five-time defending champion Cardinal O’Hara since 2013. They are ranked sixth in the state Class AA poll, two spots behind Bishop Kearney of Rochester. The two met Saturday in what figured to be the Lancers’ toughest assignment to date.

3. East Aurora boys swimming. ICYMI, the Blue Devils extended their division-title-winning streak to 50. That’s right, 50 straight years of being the best team in dual-meet competition. They’ve done it in unbeaten fashion the past five seasons under coach Chris Musshafen.

4. FLOP girls hockey. Defending state champion Frontier/Lake Shore/Orchard Park bounces back from first defeat of season Jan. 17 (to Monsignor Martin) and caps 2-0 week by clinching the top seed for the Section VI tournament. The playoffs start Tuesday, but FLOP gets a bye into Thursday’s semifinals as a result of earning the No. 1 seed.

5. Cardinal O’Hara boys basketball. Large schools, small schools. Doesn’t matter. Unbeaten Hawks (16-0) continue to soar. Top-ranked small school in Western New York caps three games in four-day stretch with rout of St. Joe’s. O’Hara star Justin Hemphill with highlight-reel dunk for television cameras in attendance.

6. Olean boys basketball. News’ No. 2 small school is ranked first in the state poll ahead of Cardinal O’Hara for a reason. Huskies are scary good, as usual, and unbeaten in rugged CCAA. Olean has held 11 of its 14 foes under 50 points, won each of its games by 10 or more points. Huskies have won last 10 by at least 19 points.

7. St. Joe’s hockey. Off to its usual strong start, St. Joe’s (14-1-2) had a fine week because it beat rival Canisius, 2-1, during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Rivalry Day extravaganza at HarborCenter. Marauders look to start week off on right foot with another win over Canisius on Sunday in a game that will count toward Niagara Cup playoff seeding.

8. Niagara Falls bowling. The Wolverines’ boys are unbeaten in Niagara Frontier League play and have captured two big tournament titles this season – the Roy Sommers and Festival of Lights – heading into next weekend’s Section VI Invitational. Niagara Falls girls also are unbeaten in NFL play.

9. Panama girls basketball. Top-ranked team among small schools in Western New York, the Panthers have won 11 in a row. They have beaten five ranked teams during a 12-1 start – including No. 7 large school Frontier. Only loss for Class D school came against Class A-size Warren (Pa.).

10. St. Francis wrestling. For the 13th year in a row, St. Francis versus St. Joe’s dual decides Monsignor Martin regular-season title. Red Raiders repeat as champions with 120-pounder Logan Lauck's win in the final match securing the crown.

Honorable mention

Amherst boys basketball, Amherst girls basketball, Amherst indoor track and field, Canisius hockey, Canisius swimming, Cardinal O’Hara girls basketball, City Honors boys basketball, Cheektowaga indoor track and field, Clarence bowling, Depew girls bowling, Dunkirk girls bowling, East boys basketball,  Falconer wrestling, Hamburg indoor track and field, Hamburg swimming, Holland/East Aurora indoor track, Lake Shore girls basketball, Lancaster indoor track and field, Maryvale bowling, Monsignor Martin girls hockey, Niagara Wheatfield wrestling, Nichols boys hockey, Nichols girls hockey, Nichols squash, Olean wrestling, Orchard Park swimming, West Seneca West indoor track and field, Williamsville girls hockey, Williamsville North boys basketball, Williamsville South girls basketball.


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