Mbengue shoots Wagner past American Studies

Magor Mbengue spent halftime shooting 3-pointers from beyond the arc at all angles. Robert Wagner’s athletically gifted point guard is not a particularly accurate marksman; Mbengue’s greatest strengths are his jumping ability, deft passing and, because of his length and quickness, on-the-ball defense.
However, when Academy of American Studies crept back into the game before intermission because of perimeter shooting, the 6-foot-2 senior thought his ability to dial up from long distance could ensure victory.
“I knew we were going to need it,” he said.
Turns out, he was right. Academy of American Studies erased a 13-point deficit, forging ahead twice in the final minutes before Mbengue broke up a 68-all with a trey, his third of the game, from the top of the key. He added two more free throws, a baseline runner in transition following a steal and a finger roll - all in the final minute - to propel the first-place Panthers to a 76-75 win Monday afternoon.
“I just had confidence,” he said. “I didn’t want to lose.”
Jamel Edwards led Wagner (10-3, Queens B-West) with 24 points and Mbengue added 19, while Andrew Puente put up 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Eagles, who fell to 5-8 in Queens B-West.
A native of Senegal, Mbengue came to America in 2002. He made the team a season ago, but was ruled academically ineligible. Mbengue had promised Edwards, whom he played pickup ball with at LaGuardia College, that he would be ready this winter. And when the season began, there was the lean Mbengue, thanks to the B’s and C’s he earned, wearing a Wagner jersey. “He was true to his word,” Edwards said. “He’s a big help.”
With the graduation of four-year starter Carl Wardlaw, the Panthers’ leading scorer the last three years, the lead guard spot was open. At first, Coach Bob Breung started Mbengue up front because of Wagner’s lack of size after Edwards.
That all changed recently. During one practice, he saw Mbengue running the team better than any of his guards, and made a switch, although the new point guard is still in the middle of the zone on the other end of the court. “He’s an amazing passer,” Breung said.
Still, he was the last player the coach wanted to see with the ball leaving his hands beyond the 3-point line with the game on the line. “He can work more on his outside shot,” Breung admitted, although adding, “today, he actually made a few.”

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