By Dylan Butler
It has been a long time since the Queens College men’s basketball coaching staff could enjoy the final minutes of the game alongside the starters while the reserves finish out a rout.
The last time it happened was two years ago, when the Knights won the NYCAC title and advanced to the NCAA tournament for a second straight year.
Not coincidentally, that was also the last time John Sikiric shot the way he did in Saturday afternoon’s 95-70 drubbing of Concordia in Bronxville in the 1,500th game of the 65-year history of the program.
The 6-foot-5 junior from Maspeth looked like the old John Sikiric, scoring 35 points — one shy of a career-high — on 12-of-20 shooting, including a remarkable 8-of-13 from three-point range.
After tearing his anterior cruciate ligament Dec. 29, 2002 and missing the final 21 games of last season, Sikiric finally shot the ball freely in the Knights’ third straight win.
He buried five three-pointers in the first half to help stake Queens (9-13, 8-11 NYCAC) to a 47-27 halftime lead and scored his 35th point on his eighth three-pointer of the game with 8:02 left to give the Knights an 82-46 lead.
“I had a lot of open threes. The guys were finding me and some of them I knocked down,” said Sikiric, a former Archbishop Molloy standout. “I cooled off at the end.”
Finally, with 2:10 left in the game, Sikiric, who scored a career-high 36 points as a freshman at Molloy College on Feb. 20, 2002, sat down as reserves Evan DeCruz and Burton Williams entered the game.
“It was a good day today. He got his looks and he knocked them down,” Queens College coach Kyrk Peponakis said. Assistant coach Jerry Ingenito “was telling him to just keep shooting. He was terrific.”
Despite shooting 58.6 percent in the first half, including 53.3 percent from three-point range, and having a comfortable lead at halftime, Queens did not let up after the break.
With quick and lanky Rob Villanueva at the top of a smothering full-court press, the Knights scored the first eight points of the second half, all off Concordia turnovers.
“That was a great way to start the half,” Peponakis said. “It really put them away. The press was big.”
Villanueva, the 6-foot-6 former Franklin K. Lane standout, had 14 points and five rebounds, Shaun Bertin had 13 points and five rebounds, and freshman point guard Hassan Washington added seven points, seven rebounds and 11 assists, thanks mostly to superb ball movement.
“Having John shoot the ball like that helps other people,” Villanueva said. “It was great seeing John shoot like that. Once he starts shooting the ball like that, you have to give him the ball.”
Lost in the blowout was a spectacular shooting performance by Jonathan Duperon. With guards Famous Brown (sprained ankle) and Leon Martinez (knee) sidelined, the freshman swingman from Philadelphia scored 30 points on 10-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-7 from three-point range for Concordia, which dropped to 4-18, 4-15.
But on this night, that’s only second best behind a throwback game by Sikiric.
“They’re not really known as a pressing team. They came out and adjusted to our weakness and took us right out of our game,” said Concordia coach John Dwinell, who practiced with just six healthy players during the week. Sikiric “was on fire and he did a great job, but we didn’t do a good job defensively.”
Queens, which is now 641-859 all-time, is home to Mercy Thursday and Southampton Saturday before heading to New Haven Monday at 7:30 p.m.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.