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Queens Knights play big, beat C.W. Post, 62-55

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Alex McLean is a man of few words, but the junior forward on the Queens College men’s basketball team had little trouble expressing his feelings after C.W. Post took a 43-37 lead into the locker room at Conolly Gym in Brookville, L.I. Saturday.

“I was embarrassed,” he said.

And rightfully so.

The 6-foot-7 center and fellow frontcourt players Will Hooks and Jurell Bonaparte were manhandled by Post big men Baldur Olafsson, John Heitner and Marcus Taylor.

Olafsson, in particular, had the home crowd roaring. The 6-foot-10 senior center dominated the low post, scoring 15 easy points. Taylor added six points and Heitner had seven, including an uncontested dunk at the halftime buzzer.

McLean, who actually led Queens with 11 points and four rebounds in the first half, was determined not to be pushed around in the second half. And while he had just two points and two rebounds in the final 20 minutes of the game, his layup gave the Knights a lead it would not relinquish as Queens rallied for a 62-55 New York Collegiate Conference road win.

“We feel we can match up with the best big men in the league and we didn’t show that in the first half,” McLean said.

McLean also had just two rebounds in the second half, but his lone offensive board couldn’t have come at a more critical time.

With the Knights clinging to a 58-55 lead, McLean pulled down a missed shot by freshman John Sikiric with 36 seconds left in the game. Wisely, McLean pushed the ball back out and C.W. Post (10-12, 5-11) was forced to foul.

Junior guard Gary DeBerry knocked down both free throws and Sikiric nailed a pair of foul shots to seal the tough road win.

“I knew Sikiric was going to take the ball to the basket and I just tried to get in front of my man, just in case he missed,” McLean said. “Luckily I grabbed the rebound.”

It was a rebound, for the most part, Queens (11-8, 10-5) was not getting in the first half. The Pioneers shot 57.6 percent from the field in the first half with most of their points coming from the low blocks. The Knights were burnt by a bevy of simple lob passes into the post by guards Justin Cole, Ryan Bucci and Marc Terry, who combined for 11 first half assists.

“Baldur was very good tonight, but we just couldn’t stop anyone,” Queens coach Kyrk Peponakis said. “When they dunk on us, we should be mad. We didn’t play with enough heart and desire.”

Peponakis made a key second half adjustment, switching from man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone. The Post guard struggled to get the ball inside to Olafsson, who had just two points in the second half, and then didn’t knock down shots from the perimeter.

That combination led to a disastrous second half that saw C.W. Post score just 12 points and shoot 23.8 percent (5-of-21) in a second half.

Offensively, Peponakis stressed the importance of driving to the basket and no one did it better in the second half than Sikiric.

The former Molloy standout scored 13 of his game-high 23 points in the second half and on a slash along the baseline while getting fouled, gave the Knights their first lead of the game, 46-45, with 11:35 left in the second half.

“Coach told us at halftime to go to the basket and I had the big guys [Jason Willis and John Heitner] on me so I felt I could get by them,” Sikiric said.

Gary DeBerry added 14 points and four assists for Queens, which hosts three key league games this week. After playing league-leading Adelphi Tuesday, the Knights host Dowling Thursday and Philadelphia University Saturday. Queens lost to all three teams on the road earlier in the year.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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