If Queens College is a team that emphasizes solidarity over self-centered play, then Thursday's men's basketball game against Dowling was a perfect symbol of that attitude and added to the growing legend of Bradd Wierzbicki.
Queens got a lift from its scrappiest player and a game-winning shot from its best shooter in an 85-82 win over Dowling College in Oakdale, L.I.
Wierzbicki is a prolific scorer, capable of fearless drives to the basket. Probably the only shot missing from his repertoire is the game-winner, which he never took in high school or college. But with 33.5 seconds left and the score deadlocked at 82, Wierzbicki had a chance to make headlines in a New York Collegiate Athletic Conference game.
Up to that point, the slender junior from Maspeth had burned the Golden Lions (4-14, 3-8) for 41 points, so it was no secret where the ball was going - it just took a long time to get there.
As the seconds ticked away, Wierzbicki was forced to pass out of a double-team to center Shaun Bertin just beyond the three-point line, who quickly handed off to guard Anthony Mauceri with seven seconds left.
Staring through a thicket of arms and legs, Mauceri took a couple of dribbles and found Wierzbicki around midcourt with three seconds remaining. Wierzbicki drove toward the basket and launched a three-pointer while falling backward that splashed through the net with 0.1 seconds left.
Queens improved to 13-4 and 9-1 in the conference and jumped back into the win column after losing to Bridgeport Jan. 21.
"There's no better feeling right now," said Wierzbicki who leads the league in scoring and finished with a career-high 44 points. "My teammates got me the ball in the right position, and I was working to get open and I pulled up and hit the shot. This is a great bounce back win, and it shows how tough this team is to win on the road."
Wierzbicki may get the credit, but Queens got the ball back because Mauceri dived on the floor and recovered an errant inbounds pass from the Golden Lions that deflected off Queens' Clyde Chapman's hand.
Mauceri's critical play atoned for a foul he committed on Dowling's Wesley Boone (10 points) that put him on the line. Although Boone missed both free throws, Dowling got the ball back when the referee ruled that Chapman's leg knocked it out of bounds.
"I saw the loose ball, and I had to sacrifice my body to get it," Mauceri said. "That's my job: to play tough defense and do the intangibles."
Of the final shot, he said: "The play was supposed to go to Bradd, but when my man doubled him, I got the ball back. I never thought of shooting it. I was looking for him the whole time. It seems like he does this type of thing every game for us."
While Queens showed it can close out a tight game, Dowling, for all its talent, is still learning how to win. The Golden Lions, which had four players in double figures and were led by Keith Willis' 24 points, couldn't hold a 67-57 lead with 11:50 left.
"That kid is fun to watch," said Dowling's coach Mike Voyack of Wierzbicki. "I just wish we didn't have to play against him."
Reach reporter Mitch Abramson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 130.
©2006 Community News Group
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