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RIVALRY BETWEEN TOP TEAMS BECOMES OVERHEATED

The Timon/St. Jude-Turner/Carroll matchups are perennially among the best boys basketball games in Western New York. Area fans are buzzing about their meeting last Friday, but for the wrong reasons.

An incident in which punches were thrown occurred as players walked off the court following Timon's 78-72 victory at Turner/Carroll. Fans and coaches became involved in a brief melee before things cooled off.

The incident was part of local sports reports on 11 p.m. newscasts Friday. The lowlight of the highlights was a Turner/Carroll player picking up a chair as bodies converged on the court.

"That game had some of the best players in Western New York, and instead of talking about the quality of play we have to look at that (incident)," said Sister Maria Pares, the athletic director for the Msgr. Martin Assn. "I know emotions run high, but we don't need that."

Pares is reviewing video tapes of the incident as well as reports from Turner/Carroll coach Fajri Ansari and Timon/St. Jude coach Jim Palano. She said any disciplinary action by the league would come "as soon as possible."

"We're trying to handle it in the best way possible, and we're not doing anything until we look at everything," said Pares. "When we get everything together, I'll bring the parties in question together and come to a decision."

Timon/St. Jude is ranked first in The News large school poll, while Turner/Carroll is No. 2 among small schools behind No. 1 Traditional. Last season, Turner/Carroll beat Timon/St. Jude in a classic Manhattan Cup final after being swept by the Tigers in the regular season. The teams could very likely meet again in this year's Manhattan Cup playoffs.

"We have a good rivalry, but we've never really had any trouble," said Palano. "Now we've got some bad blood. Hopefully if we see them again, we'll stick to playing basketball. There's no place for that other stuff.

"It was ugly -- it got ugly during the game," said Palano, who referred to the actual game as "a war" due to its physical play. "We were happy we won and then all this happened. It doesn't make the teams look good and it doesn't make the league look good."

Turner/Carroll principal Peter Hazzan said he will be meeting with Ansari. Hazzan said the school may take some action of its own against its players.

"It's being reviewed by us internally," said Hazzan, who was at the game. "Obviously when you've got things in the heat of moment, you've got emotions running high. These are young men and things happen.

"The good thing is it didn't get out of hand. There were a few thrown punches, but it could have been a lot worse. We had enough security that we could separate the teams, and that was the end of it."

Palano, also the athletic director at Timon/St. Jude, said he doesn't plan to suspend any of his players.

"We just have to wait until the evidence is looked at and see what happens," he said. "On our part, I have nobody to suspend -- my guys were just defending their teammates."

Nine-year swim for OP

Upon further review, it has not been a decade -- as was reported to The News -- since the Orchard Park boys swimming team last lost an ECIC I meet prior to Friday's 52-50 loss to Clarence. But it was close.

Orchard Park coach Dale Heimlich remembered his team had lost to Lancaster, but wasn't sure if it was 1991, '92 or '93. Lancaster's Dan Syzmanski definitely knew it was '92 -- it's on the Redskins' banner in their pool.

Speaking of upon further review, Heimlich failed to have a disqualification reversed by showing a video to judges during the meet. In the first event of the meet, OP was disqualified for jumping early on the final leg of the medley relay.

"I've got eight videos showing it wasn't even close," said Heimlich. "I showed them after diving, but in the rules of swimming, you can't change a decision. . . . We've never been disqualified in a medley relay. I don't mind losing, I just don't want to lose because of a decision I think was wrong. If it was an obvious jump, that would be OK."

While Heimlich was disappointed in the disqualification, he lauded Clarence's performance.

"Those kids did a great job," he said. "They swam out of their tree. Those kids were prepared absolutely wonderfully. I've never seen a nicer prepared team. Hey, we went 3:19 in the free relay and got beat by two seconds. It was a great victory for them."

Puck drops on hockey playoffs

The most intriguing matchup of this week's WNY Federation hockey playoffs is Friday night's 6:30 p.m. quarterfinal between neighbors Williamsville East and Williamsville South at the Amherst Pepsi Center. The rivals were nearly involved in a mix-up regarding who will represent Section VI in the state playoffs.

With area public school teams eligible for the state playoffs for the first time since 1993, it was decided that the public schools with the best regular-season finish would represent Section VI.

In the WNY Federation Division II (small school) regular-season standings, South finished one point ahead of East. But since the teams were vying for a spot in the public school playoffs, Federation games against Catholic schools don't count. In the public-vs.-public standings, East edged South by one point.

Williamsville South Athletic Director Kevin Lester and coach Sean Green were under the impression that the teams' WNY Federation finish would determine the state playoff representative. So prior to last week's East-South game, when Green asked Lester if South should pull its goalie late in a tie game in order to try for a win, Lester said no.

"My interpretation was that it wouldn't come to that," said Lester.

Of course, that game ended in a tie.

"The only thing we would have done differently is pull the goalie (against East)," said Lester. "But that's such a chance happening, we could have been scored on and gotten a loss.

"It was just the misinterpretation of a ruling. We graciously accept it. . . . I'm sure Friday night's game will be very competitive."

In the state playoffs, East will play the winner of a regional qualifier between Section V and Section III at the Amherst Pepsi Center on Thursday, March 1 at 7 p.m. If East wins, it travels to Section X (Ogdensburg area) on Saturday, March 3 for a state quarterfinal.

Over in Division I (large schools), things are much simpler: regular season champion Williamsville North easily earned the state playoff bid with a 12-1-1 mark. St. Joe's also went 12-1-1, but North won the season series with a win and a tie.

North plays on March 3 in a state quarterfinal against an opponent to be announced at Section VII (Plattsburgh area). The winners of the March 3 games advance to the state final four in Utica on March 9-11.

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