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Canisius runs away from St. Mary's

Canisius has been the No. 1 large school in The News polls for much of the season due to a great transition game.

On Wednesday night, the Crusaders ran early, ran often and ran away with the Manhattan Cup.

Canisius repeated as champions of the Monsignor Martin Association thanks to a dominant start of what would be a dominating, 63-46, victory over St. Mary's before an estimated 2,500 at Canisius College's Koessler Center.

The Crusaders won their 13th Manhattan Cup and became the first back-to-back winner since Turner-Carroll won in 1999 and 2000. Canisius nearly had this one put away after a first quarter in which it took a 19-4 lead.

"These guys have worked so hard, and they were so focused before the game, we barely had to say a word," said Canisius coach Kyle Husband. "Between [senior] Matt Hart leading the way and Adam [Weir] and the rest of the guys, they were dialed in. They were here hours before the game, ready to go. They couldn't wait to get it started."

Canisius played that way, as it was off and running after missed baskets or turnovers by an unsettled St. Mary's team, often with junior point guard Aaron White (seven points) leading the way. The pace continued in the second quarter and Canisius had a 38-14 lead at halftime. The closest St. Mary's would get the rest of the way was 14.

"It starts this end [on defense]," said Husband. "We got stops, we got rebounds, and that allows us to get in transition. When you get Adam Weir and Matt Hart and Matt MacDonald in transition with Aaron running the show, they're hard to stop. We did it early and we did it often."

Weir, a junior, was named MVP after his 20-point effort. Hart, who scored 13 points, was joined by junior MacDonald (11) on the all-tournament team.

"Our game plan, night in, night out, is get it, rebound, run," said Hart. "That's what we did and they had no answer for it."

Canisius (21-6) heads to Long Island for the state Catholic semifinals at noon Sunday at C.W. Post, where the Crusaders will meet the champion of the Long Island diocese.

"We set our goals high -- a state championship," said Weir. "But we wanted to get the Manhattan Cup first."

St. Mary's (20-7), as the Monsignor Martin League A (small school division) team which advanced furthest in the playoffs, advances in the state playoffs in Class B. The Lancers will play the downstate champion on March 11. If Canisius wins its semifinal, the state Catholic championships will be held at Erie Community College's downtown Flickinger Center on March 11; if Canisius loses, St. Mary's will travel to Fordham for the state finals.

"Part of our problems offensively were due to Canisius. We'll regroup and get ready for March 11," said St. Mary's coach Dan Gill. "I think [White] is fantastic. Aaron White makes them go. His defensive pressure really gave us a hard time."

The Lancers' slow start was stunted by an injury to senior point guard and all-tournament selection Erik Simmons, who left the game in the second quarter and did not return. Gill said the injury was diagnosed by trainers as a high ankle sprain.

"We're going to need him in order to keep playing in March," said Gill.

Junior Paul Rath led St. Mary's with 15 points; he made two three-pointers.

Also being named to the all-tournament team were Bishop Timon-St. Jude senior Jordan Williams and St. Joe's senior Reggie Agbeko.

Bishop Timon-St. Jude coach Jim Palano, who is retiring as basketball and baseball coach and athletic director following this school year, was honored with a special lifetime award during the postgame ceremonies.