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N-O cagers set to tip off 88th season

By Mike Wertman, Sports Writer Posted 17 December 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo by Cheryl Wertman – Christopher Sweeney (3) and his Barker teammates will begin defense of their Niagara-Orleans League title on Friday. The Wilson girls team will likewise open their title defense on Friday.

The Niagara-Orleans League, one of Section VI’s oldest, if not the oldest, is set to tip off its 88th season of basketball competition this week.

The boys openers will have Roy-Hart at CSAT on Thursday followed by Medina at Newfane, Albion at Wilson and Akron at Barker on Friday.

The girls lid lifters will have CSAT at Roy-Hart on Thursday with Newfane at Medina, Wilson at Albion and Barker at Akron on Friday.

The Barker boys and the Wilson girls teams are the defending champions.

The Barker boys squad ended a nearly 70 year title drought last fall when the Raiders captured their first N-O championship since the 1945-46 season.

However, four starters, including first team All-League honorees Jacob Haight and Mitch Luckman and second team selection Bryce Moeller, have graduated. Senior Christopher Sweeney, who earned second team All-League honors, is the Raiders only returning starter.

Wilson, which has won the N-O girls title the last five years in a row, was also hit hard by graduation including the loss of first team All-League honorees Emily Lasher and Dana Smith and second team selection Allie Bubar.

Interestingly, Wilson and Newfane are the only two of the original six member schools which have competed in the league continuously since the N-O’s inaugural season of 1927-28. Wilson’s first title came during the 1929-30 season and Newfane’s in the 1945-46 campaign.

The other schools who took part in that first season included Barker, Lyndonville, Gasport and Middleport.

Middleport and Gasport merged in 1944 to form Royalton-Hartland while Lyndonville left in 1948 to join the then Genesee-Orleans League (now Genesee Region League) and Barker left for about a decade (1969 to 1979) to join the G-R before returning to the N-O in 1980.

When it was formed the N-O held competition in both boys and girls basketball. The girls competition continued until the late 1930’s before it was reduced to intramural competition. It remained that way until the early 1970’s when the Supreme Court’s Title IX ruling (requiring equal collegiate and scholastic athletic opportunities for boys and girls) reinstated girls interscholastic sports competition.

The Middleport boys squad won the inaugural 1927-28 N-O title nipping Barker 21-20 in a special playoff game held at the Medina Armory after the two teams finished the regular season with identical 9-1 records.

The Newfane girls claimed the inaugural championship with an 8-0 record (Lyndonville did not have a girls team that season). The Barker girls squad also had a strong early run capturing three straight N-O titles from 1929-1931 while Middleport followed up with a title campaign in 1932.

The league quickly expanded to eight teams the following season (1928-29) with the addition of Holley and Youngstown. Interestingly, Holley, which competed in the league just that one season, captured the boys championship with a 14-0 record. Lewiston would replace Holley on the league schedule the following season (1929-30).

Lewiston and Youngstown both continued as N-O members until 1952 when they merged to form Lewiston-Porter. Lew-Port remained a member until 1961 when the Lancers left to join the Niagara Frontier League (NFL). The Lancers dominated that final decade in the N-O winning the championship eight out of nine years from the 1952-53 to 1960-61 seasons.

Akron joined the N-O at the start of the 1953-54 season, Medina in the 1955-56 season and Albion in 1961-62 replacing Lew-Port in the lineup.

Over the years the league’s membership has also included Niagara-Wheatfield from 1958-59 to 1964-65 when the Falcons left to join the NFL and Starpoint from 1956-57 to 2003-04 when the Spartans joined the Erie County League (ECIC).

Interestingly, the league’s membership for a period also included DeVeaux Military Academy of Lewiston from the 1944-45 to 1950-51 seasons. The Cadets captured the N-O title during the 1947-48 season, the only non traditional public school to accomplish that feat until the CSAT boys squad did it during the 2012-13 campaign.

The league has crowned a boys champion every year except during the 1942-43 season when play was curtailed because of war time rationing restrictions. Schools played informal schedules that season.

The N-O resumed girls basketball competition in 1975 with Newfane ironically again capturing the first title just as was the case during the league’ inaugural 1927-28 season. The Lady Panthers in fact also claimed the crown in 1976 and 1977 before having that run ended by Medina in 1978.

Wilson’s current run of five straight titles (2010-2014) is the longest string of championships since the N-O resumed girls varsity competition.

N-O Boys Champions by School

(cc = co-champs, tc = tri-champs)

Wilson (18 titles): 1929-30, 1930-31, 1939-40, 1940-41cc, 1943-44, 1946-47, 1964-65, 1965-66, 1983-84cc, 1984-85cc, 1990-91, 1994-95, 1995-96cc, 1996-97cc, 2004-05, 2009-10, 2010-11cc, 2011-12cc.

Medina (16): 1966-67, 1969-70, 1970-71, 1972-73, 1973-74, 1980-81, 1981-82, 1984-85cc, 1985-86, 1986-87, 1988-89, 1992-93tc, 1993-94cc, 2003-04cc, 2005-06cc, 2008-09cc.

Newfane (13): 1945-46, 1949-50, 1961-62, 1962-63, 1963-64, 1967-68, 1978-79, 1993-94cc, 2005-06cc, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2010-11cc, 2011-12cc.

Starpoint (11): 1974-75, 1977-78, 1979-80, 1987-88, 1989-90, 1992-93tc, 1998-99cc, 2000-01, 2001-02, 2002-03, 2003-04cc.

Lew-Port (8): 1952-53, 1953-54, 1954-55, 1955-56, 1956-57, 1958-59, 1959-60, 1960-61.

Akron (7): 1975-76, 1976-77, 1991-92, 1992-93tc, 1997-98, 1999-2000, 2008-09cc.

Middleport (6): 1927-28, 1931-32, 1932-33, 1933-34, 1937-38, 1941-42.

Lewiston (6): 1934-35, 1935-36, 1936-37, 1938-39, 1948-49, 1950-51.

Albion (5): 1971-72, 1982-83, 1983-84cc, 1996-97cc, 1998-99cc.

Roy-Hart (4): 1951-52, 1957-58, 1968-69, 1995-96cc.

Barker (3): 1940-41cc, 1944-45, 2013-14.

Holley (1): 1928-29.

DeVeaux (1): 1947-48.

CSAT (1): 2012-13.

Girls Modern Era (1975 to present) Champions by School

(cc = co-champions)

Newfane (16 titles): 1975, 1976, 1977, 1982, 1983cc, 1984cc, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989cc, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1999cc, 2006cc, 2007cc.

Wilson (10): 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012cc, 2013, 2014.

Starpoint (9): 1980, 1981cc, 1983cc, 1984cc, 1986, 1989cc, 1994, 1996cc, 1999cc.

Medina (7): 1978, 1979, 1981cc, 1995, 1996cc, 1997, 1998.

Albion (4): 2005cc, 2006cc, 2007cc, 2009

Roy-Hart (4): 1992, 2004, 2005cc, 2012cc.