NEW BEDFORD, Mass. -– New Bedford coach Tom Tarpey frequently referred to how senior guard Rylin Collazo was “in a zone” after the No. 18 Whalers edged No. 22 Taunton, 66-65, when Collazo buried both ends of a two-shot foul with 2.2 seconds left in regulation Monday night.
In retrospect, Collazo was in two zones as the Whalers (15-4) swept their non-league season series from the Tigers (15-6).
After Corey Green drained a 3-point shot to give Taunton a 65-64 lead with 1:12 left, the teams exchanged turnovers.
When New Bedford gained possession, Collazo drove the lane and was hacked as he threw up a shot.
Then, after Taunton called a timeout, instead of walking to the bench with his teammates for words of wisdom from Dacey, Collazo walked into another zone –- Taunton’s offensive zone.
“I’ve never been in that situation before,” Collazo said of the fact he’s never been at the free throw line with the game on the line in the final seconds. “Everything was going through my head. I knew I had to knock down those free throws for my team.
“But I had to block out everything which is why, I guess, I didn’t go to the bench. Whatever helps our team, I’ll do it.”
The other zone Collazo was in was more encompassing. How else does one account for the fact that Collazo torched the Tigers for a career-high 35 points –- after dropping 31 on Taunton during a 77-76 victory earlier in the season?
“Rylin was in a zone all night,” Tarpey said. “Sometimes, I just let him do what he wants.”
What Dacey wanted in the final seconds was the ball in Collazo’s hands.
“We ran him off a screen because we had to have the ball in his hands,” Tarpey said. “He’s so quick we knew he would make something happen because we’ve been together for a long time.
“After he was fouled, we knew he would make those free throws. Really, he’s playing on another level.”
Toeing the line: Collazo, who checks in at a modest 5-foot-4 and 150 pounds, definitely was on another level at the free throw line since he converted 15-of-16 attempts en route to his career game (as a team, New Bedford blistered the nets by sinking 20-of-22 freebies for 90.1 percent). In fact, he twice converted both ends of a one-and-one foul late in the fourth quarter which helped New Bedford turn a 62-59 deficit into a 63-62 lead.
As prolific as Collazo was on offense, he was quick to credit New Bedford’s defense for playing a major role in the Tigers shooting a frigid 38.7 percent (12-for-31) in the second half and a brutal 33.3 percent (5-for-15) in the fourth quarter – which began with Taunton leading 50-46.
“Defense is a key for us,” Collazo said. “That’s what we key on every day in practice. Our offense comes from our defense.”
Tyree Weston (13 points) was the only other Whaler to reach double figures while Shaquille Davis (22 points) and Green (10 points) reached double figures for Taunton.
Davis, in a word, gave New Bedford fits. If the junior guard wasn’t nailing three-point shots, he was scoring on offensive rebounds (to be specific, Davis scored eight points on four stick-backs).
Taunton blew out to an early 7-0 lead but with Collazo scoring seven points, the lead eventually changed hands five times.
A Davis trey gave Taunton a 32-28 lead with 1:42 left in the half. But Quincy Pope scored on a driving layup and Jaleel Massey buried a trey two ticks of the clock before the buzzer sounded to give New Bedford a 33-32 lead going into the halftime break.
Cool customers: Taunton then hit New Bedford with an 8-0 run to open the third quarter, with Gerald Cortijo scoring four points. But once New Bedford tightened its defense, the Tigers cooled off while Collazo heated up.
The Whalers’ ability to maintain their composure when they were playing from behind made a distinct impression on Dacey.
“Whenever we were down, we didn’t panic,” he said. “That’s a sign we’re getting mature as a team and really playing well. This was like a state tournament atmosphere. Playing in close games like this only can help us in the tournament.”