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Morgan Park boycott put on hold, Battle of Vincennes postponed

Round two of the Battle of Vincennes might still be played at some point this season, but it will not be on Saturday.

The parents of the Morgan Park basketball players announced Friday night that they have reached an agreement with Chicago Public Schools to postpone the game, which features top-ranked Morgan Park against No. 3 Simeon, until further notice. They will meet with Morgan Park principal Carolyn Epps on Saturday and attempt to iron out their differences.

“We are going to have a meeting of the minds and see what we can come up with,” Tiffany Burrell, a Morgan Park parent and spokesperson for the group, said.

The parents want the game to be held at Morgan Park. Epps and CPS wants the game played at Brooks, which holds 600 more people than the Mustangs’ small gym. CPS had scheduled the game for Saturday at 1 p.m. at Brooks. Instead, that’s when Epps will meet with the Morgan Park parents.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to finally have our voices be heard in a responsible forum,” Burrell said in a statement. “We have no animosity towards Dr. Epps and we only want to work with her and other officials to address the serious needs for the Morgan Park High School community. This is a good first step but we are still withholding our rights to withhold our sons from this particular game until further notice.”

Earlier on Friday the parents said they would not allow their sons to play Saturday and that the Mustangs would have to forfeit the game.

“I think it is good that it is postponed and both sides can talk,” Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin said. “The kids want to see everyone get along. They have to obey what their parents say but at the same time they want to play basketball. They are relieved that both parties will talk and meet. I told the players that I’m going to take the lead on this one. I’ll be there to talk to both sides tomorrow and let them know that I love everyone.”

Simeon coach Robert Smith, who has watched the saga play out all week, thinks the postponement is a good idea.

“I talked to (Irvin) earlier today and said it was fine with me if they wanted to postpone it,” Smith said. “I suggested that was something they should throw out to the parents. It’s best for the kids for them to see if they can work things out.”

The Battle of Vincennes is the biggest event in Chicago high school basketball. Morgan Park and Simeon are the city’s two supreme basketball powerhouses, they have combined to win six state titles in the last six seasons. The schools are separated by a short four-mile drive on Vincennes Ave.

Both schools are in the Public League’s Red-South conference, so they play twice in the regular season. Simeon always hosts its home game. Morgan Park’s is usually held at a neutral site since the school’s gym only holds 270 spectators. Morgan Park, ranked No. 16 in the country by USA Today, won the first game this season

The parents banded together this week with a number of goals. They want Morgan Park to play all of its home games in the current Morgan Park gym. They also want CPS to find funds to build Morgan Park a bigger gym.

“We want to stand up for our children and do what is right for the school,” Burrell said. “Go visit Morgan Park for yourself, tour the school. They need more than just a gymnasium. This is just the start of it. We need people to listen to us, let’s do something about this.”

Morgan Park’s players and parents have presented a unified front all week.

“No one else is sticking up for one another in the city and now our parents are,” Morgan Park guard Charlie Moore said. “I’m proud of them for it and I’m sticking with my parents 100 percent.”