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The two-time defending Manhattan Cup champions may not get a chance to defend their title -- by their own choice.

Turner/Carroll is considering a boycott of this year's tournament due to the manner in which the Msgr. Martin Association classifies its boys basketball teams. For the second straight season, the league -- classifying its teams by strength rather than by size as mandated by the New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association -- has made Turner/Carroll a Class B school and Canisius a C.

"It's serious," Turner/Carroll coach Fajri Ansari said of the possibility of a boycott. "It's not something we really want to do. My concern would be obviously for the kids, because certainly they want to play. But (the process) has to get looked at.

"From my understanding, the determination of who is B and who is C is a local decision. And the way it's been done is flawed and biased against the smaller schools. When enrollment is not a factor, it clearly benefits the larger schools."

Sister Maria Pares, the Msgr. Martin's athletic director, said: "I think (a boycott) would be very sad. What would a boycott change? It can't change what we do, because we are mandated in how we classify. We can't do it according to enrollment."

The Msgr. Martin Association classifies four teams as B and four teams as C. The league uses won-loss record and strength of schedule as of Jan. 31 in order to meet the NYSCHSAA's Feb. 1 deadline.

Timon/St. Jude, St. Francis, St. Joe's and Canisius make up the Msgr. Martin Association's League AA (large schools). Since Timon, St. Francis, St. Joe's and Turner/Carroll had the four best records on Jan. 31, those four were classified as B schools. Canisius joined League A (small school) teams Niagara Catholic, St. Mary's of Lancaster and O'Hara in Class C.

"That's the best back-door move of the season," Ansari said of Canisius' being a C. "To say they compete at a C level is totally ridiculous. (The league) wants us to believe Canisius can't compete at a B level?"

On Jan. 31 -- the evening they were classified a C -- Canisius improved to 7-10 by beating Aquinas of Rochester, the state's top-ranked Class B school at the time. Canisius also beat Seneca, a B-1 school ranked in The News' top five large school teams all season, in December, and a week ago it routed St. Joe's by 19 points.

"With this system, all the large schools have the chance to go to states, even if they are not having a good year 'on paper,' " Ansari said. "The small schools' only chance to get to the state level is to beat the best of the large schools (in the Manhattan Cup) or the worst of the large schools (whichever is classified as a C).

"(A boycott) is a decision that the principal, athletic director, coaches, parents and players will make," said Ansari. "The point is, we just don't want the small schools to keep getting ignored."

Timon, Turner on probation

Timon/St. Jude and Turner/Carroll have both been put on probation by the Msgr. Martin Association due to the teams' postgame brawl Feb. 9.

Pares said both schools have been issued a reprimand and will be on probation for the remainder of the season. If any other incidents are to occur, players would risk "removal" according to league guidelines, Pares said. Removal is defined as suspension for the rest of the season.

Pares said the league could not suspend any particular players because videotapes of the postgame incident did not conclusively show who were the instigators.

Ansari, like Timon/St. Jude coach Palano, said he would not be suspending any of his players.

"We won't have any suspensions because we were protecting ourselves," Ansari said. "We've never been involved in an incident or altercation, and I think most people who are familiar with our team would say we carry ourselves in a respectful manner and with sportsmanship. The game got out of hand. It's unfortunate it happened."

Dream scrimmage

It's a local hoop fan's dream come true . . . almost: No. 2 large school Niagara Falls (20-0) will host No. 1 Timon/St. Jude (22-1) in a scrimmage Monday. Regular refs will be used in the scrimmage, which will take place as long as Niagara Falls wins its quarterfinal Friday. Falls is fourth in the state in the Class A poll, while Timon/St. Jude is second in Class B.

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