By Dylan Butler
If Queens College men’s basketball coach Kyrk Peponakis had his way, every night would be Senior Night. Every night would be filled with the pregame pomp and circumstance and every night his seniors, Will Hooks, Phil Lyons and Jurell Bonaparte, would play with the emotion of knowing they could be playing their final game at Fitzgerald Gymnasium.
But the Knights’ seniors, particularly Hooks, who recorded his fifth career double-double, did their part to make sure they got one step closer to yet another home game with a 61-57 win over New York Collegiate Athletic foe Bridgeport Monday.
The win, coupled with New York Tech’s loss at Philadelphia University Monday, puts Queens in good position to finish in either third or fourth place in the division standings. Should the Knights also defeat Molloy in their regular season finale Wednesday, Queens should host a NYCAC tournament quarterfinal game Tuesday.
With the tournament’s semifinals and final also at Queens, Hooks and company have a chance to play at least three more games on their home court.
“You want to go out big time on Senior Night,” said Hooks, who had 12 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. “You can’t go out and play a weak game. I came out strong and played with a lot of energy.”
And he played under control. Hooks, who is usually foul prone, had just two second half fouls. The 6-foot-5 forward from Elmont shot 5-of-8 from the field, went 2-of-3 from the foul line and turned the ball over just once in 30 minutes.
“He should be doing that all his life, just get to the basket,” Peponakis said. “I brought in the three seniors before the game. I feel close to them and I told them I’d do anything for them. After the game I told Will, maybe his father should come to all the games.”
Peponakis also wished some of Hooks’ energy rubbed off on the rest of the team, especially in the final 10 minutes of the game. Queens (15-10, 14-7) went on its second 11-2 run of the game — the first put the Knights ahead 34-30 at halftime — to take a 53-39 lead on Gary DeBerry’s slashing layup.
Bridgeport head coach Mike Ruane called timeout and during the stoppage Peponakis urged his team to increase its lead from 14 to 24. Instead the Purple Knights rallied to go on an 11-2 run of its own to cut Queens’ lead to 59-53 on Laverne Goulbourne’s three-pointer.
Bridgeport (12-13, 10-11) cut the Knights lead to seven, 61-54 on Abdul Smith’s free throw with 2:31 left.
With 2:02 left in the game, Queens junior Dave Trani went to the foul line to shoot the single bonus, but he missed the freebie. The Knights went 0-of-5 from the charity stripe in the final two minutes.
“We kept opening the door,” Peponakis said. “We went to the foul line to close the door, but we didn’t. Then we turn around and give them a good look.”
But luckily for Queens, those good looks — wide-open three-point attempts by Brett Kindleman and Brian Evans from the top of the key in the final nine seconds — rimmed out.
“We can’t keep winning games like this,” said DeBerry, who led Queens with 16 points. “Our free throw shooting has been terrible lately. But I’m glad we hung tough and sent the seniors out with a win.”
Sikiric added 14 points and six rebounds for Queens while Goulbourne and Kindleman netted 12 points apiece and Smith added 11 points and four assists for Bridgeport.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.