By Dylan Butler
The play designed on the dry erase board by Queens men’s basketball coach Kyrk Peponakis was executed to near perfection. With their season 11 seconds away from ending and trailing by three points at No. 2 Adelphi Tuesday night, Greg Dickinson’s shot from the top right of the arc off a double screen appeared to be dead on.
But the game-tying three-pointer rimmed in and out, coming so close the ball probably tasted nylon. And with it went the Knights season, as No. 7 Queens fell 52-49 in the New York Collegiate Athletic Conference quarterfinals at Woodruff Hall in Garden City, L.I.
After being pushed to the brink by Queens, Adelphi (20-8) advances to the Friday’s semifinals to face No. 3 Bridgeport at C.W. Post’s Pratt Recreation Center in Brookville, L.I. at 5 p.m. The top-seeded Pioneers take on No. 4 New Haven in the other semifinal at 7:30 p.m.
“I didn’t see the rim, but it felt good when it left my hands,” said Dickinson, whose desperation heave at the buzzer was also wide of the mark. “We had a lot of opportunities and didn’t capitalize. The game was ours. We had it.”
On another night, Peponakis would have had three other options for the play called “slice.” But without starters Gary DeBerry and John Sikiric and senior sharpshooter Dave Trani, who finished his collegiate career with a back injury, Dickinson, who scored a team-high 13 points including three three-pointers, was Peponakis’ only choice.
“Look at where we are. If the ball goes through the hoop and we tie it, who knows? We played a great game, I’m so proud of their effort,” Peponakis said. “You never want to be happy with a loss, but the way they played, how can you not be proud?”
Despite an eight-man rotation, Queens (14-14), which saw its four-game winning streak snapped, battled valiantly for 40 minutes and led 42-39 with 6:22 left in the second half.
But Adelphi point guard Thomas McCormack, who, like many of his Panthers teammates, struggled from the perimeter against the Knights matchup zone, slashed through the lane to put Adelphi ahead, 44-42 a minute later.
McCormack was huge on both ends of the floor for Adelphi down the stretch. The 6-foot junior from Breezy Point rejected NYCAC Rookie of the Week Shaun Bertin from behind with 1:19 left before Mike Leonce (11 points, 8 rebounds) sunk one of two free throws to tie the game at 47.
With Adelphi leading 48-47, McCormack drove through the lane for a layup that put the Panthers ahead by three with 23 seconds left. After Leonce tapped in Dickinson’s missed three-pointer, McCormack buried a pair of free throws with 9.5 seconds left to send Adelphi into the semifinals.
“Tony [Kellman] drove and kicked me the ball,” McCormack said. “I wasn’t hitting my shots so I thought if I attacked the basket I’d have a better chance.”
“Thomas is a big-time player who has been in pressure situations before,” said Adelphi first-year head coach James Cosgrove, whose team has won 11 of its last 12 games, including nine straight. “He can make the big plays when we need them.”
Dowling College 72, Queens College 60. Patti Cronin scored 15 of her team-high 20 points in the first half, Kerri Graham had 14 points and 8 rebounds and Erin Dollard added 10 points and 8 boards before fouling out for No. 8 Queens (11-15), which lost at top-seeded Dowling (22-8) in the NYCAC quarterfinals for a third straight year.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.