There are many factors at work when classifying a team as a contender for a postseason championship.
A team’s body of work entering the playoffs tends to offer a good indication. Who has beaten whom and by how much? If a team looks heads and shoulders above the rest of the competition in its bracket based on regular-season results, then there’s a good chance that team will be considered a favorite.
If a team has size and talent that opponents in your bracket not only envy but also have no answers for, congratulations - you will be among the hunted.
How about a team featuring a future Division I player? You’re definitely not sneaking up on anyone.
There will be many contenders but only eight teams will earn the chance to hold up a coveted Section VI championship plaque – with only five moving on to Far West Regionals – once the tournament concludes in 15 days at Buffalo State Sports Arena (Classes AA-B) and Jamestown High School (Classes C-D).
Who’s heading to Rochester for regionals? The mystery begins to unfold today.
Here’s a look at each class.
Favorite: No. 1 seed Jamestown is the defending champion. Of the Red Raiders’ two losses, only one has come at the hands of a team in this tournament (Frontier).
Juniors Chrisanna Green and Anne Campion are among nine returnees from last year’s outfit, with Green averaging 20.5 points and 12 boards per game. Campion averages 12.5 points, three assists per game.
Challengers: No. 2 Niagara Falls captured the Niagara Frontier League championship with a 14-0 mark and has four players averaging more than 10 points per game, led by senior Victoria Pryor (19.1). Williamsville North is the three seed and played Jamestown close twice. Besides sophomore Ericka Taplin, who averages 15 ppg, the Spartans have a potential X’s-and-O’s factor in coach Bill Shaw. Shaw led Lockport to 13 sectional titles in his 23 seasons, including three in his final five. Shaw’s Lions lost in the semifinals last year.
Best matchup before Buffalo State: No. 4 Lockport versus No. 5 Frontier on Feb. 25. The Lady Lions may have a new coach in Karen Catalano, but she comes from the Shaw coaching tree. As usual, Lockport has talented big players in 6-foot-1 Sara Franco (10.5 ppg., 6.9 rpg.) and 5-10 Alyssa Wagner (13.6 ppg., 8.5 rpg.). Frontier is very balanced scoring and everyone can defend. “You can’t take away any one or two players because others can certainly pick up the slack,” Catalano said. Key Falcons include point guard Caisey Lipka (12.1 ppg.) and Kelsi Ebert (14.5 ppg).
Sleeper: Besides the winner of the Lockport-Frontier game, look out if Orchard Park has its shooting touch from outside.
Favorite: An athletic McKinley crew is the top seed after an unbeaten Canisius Cup campaign and has three players averaging more than 12.6 ppg, led by Daesha Thomas’ 19.5.
Challengers: Don’t be surprised if No. 4 Hamburg winds up hoisting the trophy – provided it doesn’t get burned by the coin flip used to determine seeds 2-4. Kendra Quinn-Moultrie (14.4 ppg.) is a key returnee for last year’s A-1 runner-up. The Bulldogs also have size in 6-1 center Ashley Kabza (9.5 ppg.).
If Hamburg fails to win, one if its sisters from ECIC II could wind up finishing the job.
No. 3 Will South – led by three players averaging more than 11 points, including Emily Smith’s 12.4 ppg – beat Hamburg twice but went 0-2 versus No. 2-seed Starpoint.
Best matchup before Buffalo State: Hamburg meets No. 5 Williamsville East in the quarterfinals on Thursday. If the Bulldogs are to make a run at the title, they must beat a team they split the season series with and do so against a team that won in Hamburg. In that win, Flames eighth-grader Erica Martinsen burned Hamburg for 18 points, 13 rebounds, five steals and five assists.
Sleeper: Sweet Home is a battle-tested No. 8 seed and has a favorable bracket. The Panthers beat McKinley earlier in the season by 11 and cost Will South a chance at winning ECIC II outright by beating the Billies in their second-to-last game of the season.
Favorite: East Aurora earns the top seed as last year’s sectional finalist in Class B-1 had a shot at going unbeaten in ECIC III until suffering a late-season loss to Cheektowaga.
Still, the Blue Devils have lots of weapons with Erin Nason (12.5 ppg. and 12.5 rpg) and Julianna Meisenheimer (9.0 ppg., 3.5 apg.) leading the way.
Challengers: Albion out of the rugged Niagara-Orleans earned the No. 2 seed even though it didn’t win the league.
No. 3 Maryvale could very well have the best player in the tournament in Division-I bound Ciara Rosten. The future member of UMass of the Atlantic 10 conference is averaging just under 22 ppg, while bringing down 15.5 boards per. Rosten holds school records for points (42) and rebounds (25) in a single game. “She’s very unselfish ... and she’s a force on the defensive end,” Flyers coach Tim Klimtzak said.
Best matchup before Buffalo State: No. 4 Springville hosting No. 5 Amherst in the quarterfinals. The Griffins beat the Tigers twice during the season, but both were close games. Amherst also has beaten defending A-2 champion Pioneer twice.
Sleepers: No. 7 Cheektowaga, which has four legit scorers (led by Andrea Montgomery’s 13.9 ppg.) and lost in last year’s final by a point. No. 8 Pioneer may be 6-12 but past winning experience and the return of do-everything senior Jacque Law gets one’s attention, as does the fact it’s beaten Maryvale and Cheektowaga and lost two close games to potential quarterfinal foe East Aurora.
Favorite: Fredonia, which plays in the very tough CCAA West I, lost six times but still earned the top seed led by Morgan Genovese’s 14.3 ppg.
Challengers: The Hillbillies actually have lost four of their last five games. While two of the losses are to teams that earned No. 1 seeds in their respective bracket (Holland in Class C-1 and Pine Valley in Class D), they still seem vulnerable. No. 3 seed Tonawanda has a slightly less daunting path to Buffalo State. No. 2 Buffalo Arts has two players averaging near 18 points per in Summer Hemphill (18.3) and Alexis Campbell (17.9) and made a run to the B-2 final last year.
Best potential matchup I before Buffalo State: Clash between Olean and Fredonia in the quarterfinals on Thursday, unless CSAT beats the Huskies tonight. Olean has won seven of its last 10 games after a 0-7 start. Huskies also have won five of last six overall Class B titles.
Best potential matchup II before Buffalo State: Showdown between Tonawanda and sixth-seeded Newfane. Senior Alanna Herne, who is in her fourth season for Tonawanda, averages 11.4 ppg. The Warriors like to play zone and tend to struggle against pressure. Newfane is athletic, well-coached and likes to make teams work. Brooke Horning leads the Panthers in scoring at 11.2 ppg.
Sleeper: Eden. The fifth-seeded Raiders, a member of the rugged ECIC IV, have won four of their last six and have a potentially easy path to the semifinals, opening against a two-win Medina crew and then facing either Dunkirk (1-16) or Bennett (8-9) in the quarters. Six-footer Lindsay Gearhart (10 ppg, 10 rpg,) is a solid transfer from Lake Shore, while Sabrina Kraska can shoot the three.. … Depew, led by Chelsea Buono (13.1 ppg.) and Brooke Guay (12.1 ppg.) could also surprise some teams as a No. 10 seed.
Favorite: Wilson. The Lakewomen are the top seed and have won a sectional title three of the past four seasons. Emily Lasher (15 ppg.), Dana Smith (13 ppg, 9.0 rpg.) are among nine returnees from last year’s championship outfit. Wilson has posted back-to-back 14-0 seasons in N-O play.
Challengers: No. 2 Cleveland Hill, which has beaten B-1 No. 3 seed Tonawanda twice. The Golden Eagles are young, scrappy and well-coached. Southwestern is strong, too
Best potential matchup before Buffalo State: Salamanca versus Southwestern in a No. 4 meets No. 5-seed game between clubs with a combined 26 victories. Trojans’ Alex Sullivan averaging nearly 20 points per game.
Sleeper: Akron. Tigers are athletic, tough and buoyed by bracket that provides a potentially easy path to the semifinals. Falconer plays in a tough league and could be a tough out.
Favorite: Holland is the top seed, it plays in a tough league, it enters the postseason coming off a recent win over B-1 top seed Fredonia and features one of the top scorers in the area in Olivia Schmidt (27.2 ppg.).
Challengers: No. 2 Tapestry and third-seeded Alleghany-Limestone. Tapestry is the only WNY team to beat Niagara Falls this season (Falls’ other loss came to a school from Cleveland).
Best matchup before Buffalo State: Tapestry vs. A/L. It’d be a good championship game. Tapestry has size and an experienced coach in ex-Holy Angels boss Fran Snyder. Shaquana Owens (17.2 ppg.) is one of three Thunder Hawks averaging more than 14 points per game. Adila Gathers (14.2 ppg.) will attend Division I St. Francis (Pa.). A/L also has some size, led by Allison Forness (15.6 ppg.) and Allison Watson (11.4).
Sleeper: Silver Creek has 6-5 center Jordan Brooks, who averages 24 points per game.
Favorite: Olmsted is the top seed but this is a monster of a bracket with five of the eight teams in the draw having won at least 13 games. Three-time defending overall Class C champion Randolph is part of this group, too.
Challengers: No. 2 Randolph for obvious reasons – the Cardinals are the defending champions and have perhaps the top scorer in the area in Mckenna Maycock (31.3ppg.), a junior who has already surpassed 2,000 career points.
Third-seeded Frewsburg is another.
Best matchup before Buffalo State: Barring an upset, Randolph against Frewsburg in a semifinal at Jamestown High on Feb 26. The Bears are led by Emily Hair’s 14.5 ppg.
Sleeper: No. 4 Chautauqua Lake is 16-1. They play in a league with mostly Class D-sized schools but it did beat Randolph by double figures and has a solid core of juniors who have come up through the ranks together. The Thunderbirds also have two good post players in Jenna Einink (19.2 ppg) and Ashton Albanesius (14.6 ppg).
Favorite: Pine Valley, the top seed, has all but one player back from last year’s sectional runner-up team – including Kayla Mansfield (13.4) and Alex Bentham (12.5).
Challengers: No. 2 Clymer and No. 3 Panama. Both challengers split their regular-season meetings. Brittany Lenart leads Panama with 17.2 ppg.
Best matchup before Buffalo State: No. 4 Sherman vs. No. 5 Ellicottville on Thursday. In this seven-team bracket, the defending champion Wildcats get to face an Ellitcottville crew they beat by 12 earlier this season in a tournament. Still, Sherman will have to contain 5-9 guard Marisa Hamilton, who averages 20 ppg. Sophomore Bridget Yaw was a first-team all-league last year and leads the Wildcats in scoring (13.7 ppg.).
Sleeper: Sherman may start three sophomores but it has won three of the last five Class D titles (Clymer has won the other two).