Harris Sidelined for ND Prep Win

PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. -- Paul Harris could only watch from the sidelines as his Notre Dame Prep squad spotted the South Kent School a 19-point first half lead on Sunday at the 2006 Westchester Elite Winter Hardwood Classic.

Harris, a 6-4 swingman headed to Syracuse next fall, was benched for the game by Crusaders Head Coach Bill Barton. While neither Barton nor Harris would confirm the exact reason for the suspension, Notre Dame was able to muster a strong second half comeback and defeated the Cardinals, 86-82.

"I decided not to play Paul Harris today," said a hoarse Barton after the game. "I wanted the other guys to have to play without Paul Harris."

"These other players are good, even though Paul gets a lot of notoriety," Barton continued. "It's a good team with or without Paul Harris. Some of these other guys needed some minutes. Maybe I am a bad coach, but I decided not to play Paul Harris."

Harris said that Barton informed him on Saturday that he wouldn't play against South Kent.

"I wasn't mad at him," Harris said. "I understand there are consequences."

Consequences for what, we're not sure of.... but consequences, nonetheless.

For a while, it appeared that Harris' benching would have a negative impact on the Crusaders, as they fell behind 42-23 late in the first half. Things got so bad that Barton yanked all of his starters and put in five reserves.

As the half drew toward a close, Barton reinserted several starters, and thanks in large part to Lazar Hayward, Notre Dame was able to slice the deficit to 50-42 at the break.

Harris was very supportive from the bench throughout the entire game, yelling words of encouragement to his teammates as they overcame the huge deficit to win a key NEPSAC Class A battle.

"When we were down in the beginning by a lot, I knew it wasn't over," Harris said. "There's two halves to a game. If we could cut the lead down to single digits at the half, we could come back and win, and that's what we did."

Known for his fiery competitiveness, it was awkward to see Harris dressed in a suit and tie while his teammates scratched and clawed their way back into the game. You kind of waited for the moment where Barton would relent, and Harris would shed the suit and tie and come into the game and save the day.

"I didn't even bring my uniform -- I already knew what time it was," Harris admitted. "So I was just there to cheer my team on and I'm glad we got the W."

Barton anticipates having Harris back in the lineup this weekend as the Crusaders play an arduous stretch of three games in three days. On Friday, Notre Dame will travel to South Kent for a rematch, and on Saturday, it will be a rematch with St. Thomas More at Baruch College in New York City.

Last month, the Crusaders topped the Chancellors in the championship game of the Boys Club Tournament at Basketball City in Manhattan.

Notre Dame will wrap up action on Sunday against Blair Academy at the Magic 32 Hoop Hall Classic in Springfield, Mass.

"I plan on practicing hard all this week, and hopefully, by Friday, I will be back," Harris surmised.

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