Paul Harris capped off his high school basketball career with an MVP performance during Thursday night's Niagara PAL/ACE Showcase. Afterwards, he said he has made a major move toward deciding his future.
Harris, who scored 24 points to lead the West to a 110-77 win over the East, told The Buffalo News he is "90 percent" certain he will verbally commit to Syracuse University.
Harris, who will attend prep school next season before attending college, said he expects to make a final verbal commitment after the summer AAU basketball season.
"Every college recruiting you, they're supposed to tell you everything good, but there's something about Syracuse that I just trust and believe in them that they would treat me good if I go there," said Harris. "They'd set me up with the right prep school. And (Syracuse coach Jim) Boeheim, through the years, he just lets his kids play, and that's the type of style I like. I can't be perfect, but let me make mistakes; I have to learn from them, and he's the type of guy that would let me do that."
Before an estimated crowd of 300 at Niagara Falls High School, Harris and his Wolverine senior teammates made their last game in front of their home crowd memorable, even while playing on opposite sides. Greg Gamble added 23 for the West, while Robert Garrison took MVP honors for the East with 27 points.
With 45 seconds left in the game, the senior trio was removed from the game to a lengthy standing ovation.
"That moment made me feel so good -- it was unexpected," said Garrison. "That just capped off my high school career and it let me know I meant something to the program."
Garrison and Gamble faced off several times, with Garrison even drawing two charges on Gamble.
"That was a lot of fun," said Gamble, who will play at the University at Buffalo. "We go at it a lot in the 'Y' (YMCA), but never in front of a crowd like this."
Said Garrison: "We play against each other all the time -- by now, I kind of know what Gamble's going to do."
The West held a 45-32 lead after a second quarter in which Niagara Falls sophomore Jonathan Flynn (15 points) hit a tough floater and had a great no-look pass to Sweet Home sophomore Terrell Rankin. The East stayed in the game behind Garrison and Falls junior forwards Miguel Respress (15 points) and Tyrell Lynch (13).
The West used a 37-15 third quarter to turn the game into a blowout. A 24-6 quarter-starting run included two Harris dunks -- a leaning, one-handed Jordanesque slam on a fast break and an alley-oop finish off a pass from Lackawanna senior Ray Blackburn (19 points).
In the girls game, Lewiston-Porter senior Brenlyn Campbell earned MVP honors with a team-high 15 points as the North scored a tremendous come-from-behind victory over the South, 58-54.
The South began with a 19-5 first quarter but the North surged back with a 23-2 second quarter and kept the lead the rest of the way behind great passing and shooting from Campbell, Grand Island's Ashleigh Frieday (14 points) and Courtney Donovan (seven) and Niagara Falls' Destiny Harrison (10).
South MVP Melissa Kanalley of Cardinal O'Hara had 13 points, including three three-pointers in the fourth quarter.