The battle of Queens

Queens College coach Kyrk Peponakis called and left a message for Norm Roberts Sunday afternoon, a day before his team played St. John’s for the first time.

“I really just wanted to thank him,” said Peponakis, a St. John’s alum. “He’s helped my program out immensely.”

Roberts, a Queens College graduate, gave Peponakis and the Division II program the chance the St. John’s coach dreamed about in college.

“When I played at Queens College, I would have given anything to be around the St. John’s floor and play against a St. John’s team,” said Roberts, who is third all-time on the Queens scoring list. “Hopefully, those kids lived out a dream today.”

The Knights’ fantasy lasted for about 11 minutes as the Red Storm held onto a 22-20 advantage. The Johnnies then asserted their dominance with a 25-7 run over the next seven and a half minutes and cruised to a 102-62 exhibition win Monday night at Carnesecca Arena.

“They whacked us up pretty good,” said Peponakis, Roberts’ assistant at Queens until he took over as coach in 1995. “They just beat us up. It was men against boys out there a little bit.”

The run that put the game out of reach was capped by junior point guard Daryll Hill (12 points, 11 assists and one turnover) driving along the left side on a fast break. The Queens native then bounced the ball off the right side of the backboard to freshman Anthony Mason, Jr. (five points, eight rebounds) for a two handed slam that sent the crowd of 3,458 into a roar as thunderous as the dunk.

“The newcomers are still learning, but they’re getting a feel for the game,” said sophomore guard Eugene Lawrence, who scored 10 points. “The offense is flowing.”

Even so, one component of the St. John’s attack not run smoothly was its outside shooting. The Johnnies shot an abysmal 0-for-15 from behind the arch.

“I’m disappointed in that, but I thought we took good shots,” Roberts said. “If we take good shots, that leads to us making them.”

Junior Lamont Hamilton led St. John’s with 18 points and sophomore Dexter Gray added 14. The Knights’ Brad Wierzbicki, a Maspeth native, scored a game-high 24 points and shot 14-of-15 from the free throw line during the unique experience.

“First class all the way,” Peponakis said. “They said to me ‘You bring the bus to the game and you can park in the front.’

“I said ‘Look, we’re going to take the [Q-44 bus] down to Kissena, we’ll get off and we’ll meet you at the game.”