CHELSEA, Mass. -- In preparation for No. 6 New Bedford's game, Whalers head coach Tom Tarpey stressed the need for his team to have the ability to overcome adversity, as they hadn’t had to show much against the three teams they had already faced this season.
At the ever-competitive BABC Holiday Classic though, Mansfield would show to be a worthy adversary. Still, New Bedford pulled off a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter to come back and defeat Hornets, 66-62.
“We’ve been talking the past few days about handling adversity,” said Tarpey. “We were down; the kids did a great job, turned it up defensively. They hung in there, kept battling. I think we might have run them down a little bit in the fourth quarter.”
Although New Bedford was undefeated coming into today’s matchup (now 4-0), the team had yet to see the kind of talent they saw tonight according to players and coaches, so they had to adjust to the skill level. But their defensive prowess (9 steals on the day, 6 in the second half) helped them down the stretch to pull together a comprehensive comeback and stave off a last-minute comeback.
“Fast break points kept us in the game,” said Jonathan Fortes, who scored four of his 11 points on that 15-0 run, including a breakaway dunk. “We went hard on the defensive end of the floor and it paid off. We focused on the defense and the offense took care of itself.”
Trailing by four at the half, New Bedford was able to stay in the game by tying up the score at 47-all to begin the fourth quarter. The score was 55-49 with 6:10 left after Mansfield’s Brian Hershman (17 points, 5 assists) hit a pair of technical fouls shots and then a 3-pointer on the next possession.
Tarpey called a timeout and that's when it became clear to junior Cameron Walker (13 points, 3 assists, 2 steals) that his team could win. After analyzing a matchup between the two teams, Walker saw the potential for the Whalers to capitalize on it.
“We could tell they were really tired and we weren’t, so we decided that we’d work together and play great defense,” said Walker. “But it definitely started with our stamina. We reached into ourselves and decided that we were going to work hard enough to get the win, and that’s exactly what we did.”
After scoring 15 unanswered points following the aforementioned timeout, including four apiece from junior Fortes and senior Ray Guillotte (9 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists), Mansfield had shots, but those shots were contested on every possession.
New Bedford was simply more aggressive, insistently pursuing a win, and it became difficult for the Hornets (2-1) to score.
“I don’t think we made any adjustments defensively,” added Walker. “We just dug into ourselves and decided that we were going to step it up. We had that defense in all along; we just didn’t play it in the first half.”
NOTE: The broadcast of New Bedford's battle with No. 1 St. John's Prep at the BABC on Wednesday will streamed live by New Bedford High School's WIMC-TV online here.