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Queens struggle continues with loss to Philadelphia

Just how important is Gary DeBerry and John Sikiric to the Queens College men's basketball team? With them both in the lineup, the Knights are one of the deepest, most dangerous teams in the New York Collegiate Athletic Conference.

But without them, which has been the case for almost a month now, Queens is a mediocre team that struggles to score without a go-to player.

That case was magnified Tuesday night when the Knights dropped a 72-60 decision to Philadelphia University at Fitzgerald Gymnasium.

After starting the season 6-1 with the two All-NYCAC players, who account for 31.7 points per game, Queens has dropped six of its last eight without the duo who are out with season-ending injuries.

“They’re gone and there’s nothing we can do about that now,” said Queens College coach Kyrk Peponakis. “It’s us now and the question is what are we going to do?”

Just how critical DeBerry and Sikiric are to Queens (8-7, 6-6) is displayed on virtually every offensive set. Against Philadelphia University, the Knights were stagnant on offense and passed the ball around the perimeter like it was a game of Hot Potato.

With DeBerry and Sikiric in the lineup, Dave Trani is free to take open three-pointers and Alex McLean (13 points, 10 rebounds) can get good post position with the defense out playing the perimeter.

But without them, Trani is the Knights lone long-range threat and every time McLean is fed the ball in the post, he has to battle double teams.

“As a shooter it’s been real tough because Gary and John create so much havoc,” said Trani, who had 10 points, but shot 2-for-10 from three-point range. “Right now we don’t have a guy who can create off the dribble. It’s so frustrating.”

Philadelphia (8-7, 7-5 NYCAC) didn’t have such problems. It’s top shooter, Brent Welton, buried a three-pointer from the top of the key a minute into the game and got out of a slump in a big way. He scored a game-high 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting, including 4-of-8 from three-point range.

Jerry Clark (13 points), Brett Storm (12 points) and Brian Tomko (10 points) followed suit as the Rams shot 47.8 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from downtown in the second half.

“When your ‘star’ player struggles, the team struggles,” Philadelphia coach Herb McGee said. “We’ve been on him to play a complete game and tonight I think he did that.”

Queens College returns to the court Saturday when it hosts struggling St. Thomas Aquinas at 7:30 p.m.

Philadelphia University 69, Queens College 56. Led by Jean-Marie Reilly, who scored 29 points on 9-of-13 shooting and grabbed six rebounds, the Lady Rams rallied from a 30-18 first half deficit and dominated the second half.

Gina Torrente had 15 points and Samara Speakes added 10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks for Philadelphia (10-4, 8-4 NYCAC).

Erin Dollard led Queens (6-9, 5-7) with 14 points, Shonda Holder added 13 points and 13 rebounds and Patti Cronin had 10 points and 5 assists.

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