QP’s Maurer comes through in the clutch

Photo by Jim Hague/ Queen of Peace senior forward Derrick Maurer.

By Jim Hague

The Queen of Peace boys’ basketball team had lost Jim McLane, one of the program’s top scorers in history, to graduation and new head coach Tom McGuire was looking for someone to step up and try to fill McLane’s shoes.

That player was senior Derrick Maurer.

“We expected Derrick completely to step it up,” McGuire said. “He’s been a varsity player for three years and he’s played some big games for us.”

But in the early going, Maurer wasn’t completely comfortable with the increased role.

“He had been struggling a little,” McGuire said. “With Jimmy moving on (playing at William Paterson University), we’ve been trying to find an identity as a team. We also had to find an on-the-court leader.”

Maurer felt the pressure of trying to be the team’s new leader.

“With the loss of Jimmy, I felt I had to step it up big time,” Maurer said. “But I had to change my style of playing and that wasn’t easy. I had to help out down low, help to rebound and play defense more, and I had a tough time changing. I had to focus on defense and rebounding. With the change of coaching, it took me a little while to get used to it. In the beginning, it wasn’t what I was hoping for.”

Last week, the Golden Griffins traveled to Weehawken for a big NJIC Meadowlands Division clash. A loss would have been devastating to the Golden Griffins.

“We needed that game,” McGuire said. “It was huge. I told them that we couldn’t afford another loss. It was such a huge game.”

Maurer realized the importance of the game.

“We knew that they were a tough team, one of the better teams we’ve faced,” Maurer said. “In the few practices before Weehawken, I started to fit into my position better and felt better about myself.”

When the Golden Griffins arrived in Weehawken, they noticed a major difference.

“The court was smaller,” Maurer said. “I never had been in that gym before. It was loud and you couldn’t shoot from the corners. I like shooting from there, so I was kind of nervous.”

However, Maurer started to feel his shot coming back and that was a good sign.

“Coach McGuire just told me to keep shooting,” Maurer said.

“It was all about shot selection,” McGuire said. “At times this season, Derrick’s shot selection was questionable. But his shot selection has been better.”

With the game hanging in the balance and the Golden Griffins seemingly headed for a tough loss, Maurer stepped up and became the leader that McGuire hoped he would become.

With less than two minutes left, Maurer canned a long 3-pointer that sliced a sixpoint deficit in half.

When the Golden Griffins got the ball back again with under a minute left, McGuire called time out and called for a play. It involved Maurer.

“If everything worked out well, we were running a triple screen for Derrick,” McGuire said.

“I guess because I made the three a minute before, he had faith in me,” Maurer said. “But every player wants that chance. As soon as he called the play, I knew I would make the shot.”

McGuire said he was more than a simple make.

“He nailed it,” McGuire said.

Now, with the game tied at 56-56 and the clock ticking away, it was time to get back on defense and try to play for overtime. However, Maurer had other things in mind.

“As I was getting back on defense, I had to make a play,” Maurer said.

Maurer made a steal at midcourt, was fouled and made the two free throws that gave the Golden Griffins a thrilling 58-56 victory. Maurer ended the game with 19 points, but scored eight of those in the final two minutes.

For his efforts, Maurer has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

Maurer has enjoyed big games this season against Lyndhurst and Great Falls Academy, scoring 22 points in each of those contests. But none was bigger than the win at Weehawken, a win that kept the Golden Griffins’ NJSIAA Non-Public A state playoff hopes alive.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Maurer said.

Maurer is one of the most diversified athletes in the area. He’s a standout soccer player and hopes to play soccer at Rowan University in the fall. Maurer is also a member of the QP baseball team.

But Maurer is also a standout bowler who comes from a family of fine bowlers. His older sister Shannon is perhaps the best girls’ bowler in QP history. Maurer owns a 205 bowling average and would love to be able to bowl and play basketball at the same time.

“I tried to do both last year, but it was too tough to do,” Maurer said. “It’s a little disappointing to me, because I love bowling so much. A few people tell me that I should be bowling instead of playing basketball, but that can’t happen.”

Maurer’s prowess on the soccer field has given him a leg up on other basketball players.

“I’m definitely in perfect shape because of all the running I did in soccer,” Maurer said. “I came into the basketball season in great shape and that’s definitely a factor. In soccer, I was basically running non-stop, so that’s helped me with basketball practices and games.”

“There’s definitely a positive carryover,” McGuire said. “He’s such in great shape that we don’t have to worry about him ever getting tired. He never looks like he’s tired.”

McGuire is also happy to know that he has a go-to player in Maurer.

“It’s great,” McGuire said. “We run that play to get a basket and it’s nice to know that we can run it and Derrick can make the big shot for us. That’s what I was hoping for. Maybe he needed just a little bit of a kick start. I just hope he continues.”

“It’s my senior year,” Maurer said. “I might as well enjoy it.”

It’s a lot more enjoyable now.

Learn more about the writer ...