MARSHFIELD, Mass. -- It was typical Bob Fisher stuff at halftime.
"He came out on fire," laughed Marshfield sophomore guard Alex White when asked bout the head coach's speech, trailing by 12 at the break. "Just the usual, how he always does it. Motivates us, screams at us, whatever he has to do to get us to win."
"Relentless defense," chimed junior forward Erik Whitaker.
And at the two most crucial points of the Rams' comeback bid against much-hyped No. 9 New Bedford, both answered his call. First, it was the 5-foot-7 White putting back an air-ball three at the buzzer to force overtime. Then in the first overtime, it was Whitaker collapsing to the paint and drawing a charge with four seconds left to force another five minutes. The Rams went up by as much as five in the second and final overtime, and got key free throws down the stretch to ice an 88-86 win over the hamstrung Whalers, prompting the raucous home crowd to storm the court.
"That was a state tournament atmosphere," New Bedford head coach Tom Tarpey said. "You know, it was a great game, great high school basketball game. I'm proud of these kids. We've been through alot in these last two days, and I'm really proud of these kids. Really proud."
New Bedford was also down their top scorer and most dangerous finisher, Division 1 prospect Jules Tavares, who was reportedly suspended indefinitely for violation of team rules the night prior. Tarpey responded "I don't know" when asked about a timetable on Tavares' return.
Meanwhile, Fisher found himself praising his team's defense at the most pivotal turns of the game.
"I thought defense won the game for us," Fisher said. "You look at the scoreboard and you say, 'Jesus, neither team played defense'. But I thought our defense, our pressure, as the game went on, got to them. You're not supposed to be able to press them, but our kids got alot of buckets off the press. And our kids hung tough, even though our best player fouled out."
Yes, after trailing by as much as 15 in the second half, and 55-43 to start the fourth quarter, Barrett Murphy (33 points) led the Rams (11-2) on a furious comeback, as they outscored the Whalers 28-16 in the final frame. Murphy, who totaled 24 points in the second half, pulled up for a three-pointer from the top of the key for a 66-64 Marshfield lead with 1:01 left, to cries of "MVP!" from the student section. He then set up White's heroics by closing the Whalers' lead to 70-69 with another three from the same spot with 20 seconds left.
At the other end, Cameron Walker (20 points, seven rebounds) hit the first of two free throws to give New Bedford (9-3) a 71-69 lead with seconds remaining. Andrew Mackinley scooped up the loose ball, ran the length of the floor, and White was there in perfect position under the hoop to get the airball, tossing it back up and kissing the glass as the buzzer sounded to force overtime.
"I was looking for the pass, I didn't see one and I saw a shot go up," White said. "No one was around me, but I felt someone behind me on my back. So I got the rebound, and just went up hard with it."
Murphy then picked up his fifth foul less than two minutes into the overtime on a blocking call -- "That was a charge, no question," he chuckled later -- and sat on the bench while some of Marshfield's most unsung players turned in their best defensive rotations of the night.
Whitaker came up with his most pivotal rotation in the waning seconds of the first overtime. New Bedford's Jonathan Fortes (22 points, 11 rebounds) took the ball in the halfcourt, and three Whalers stacked the left corner for an isolation play. As the final seconds ticked away, Fortes drove to his right from the top of the key as a crowd of Marshfield players collapsed into the paint. Whitaker planted his feet, and took a hard shoulder as Fortes committed an offensive foul with 4.8 seconds to go.
Asked if he had anticipated a clear-out, Whitaker said, "I knew it was going to be an isolation, and he was going to try and drive and dish it to the kid. But I knew he was going to take one extra step when he put his head down, so I knew I had a chance to step in."
Marshfield went up by as much as five in the second overtime, 86-81, before icing the game with two trips to the free throw line at the end of the game.
Even without Tavares, the Whalers posed matchup problems in the post, especially with 6-foot-5, 260-pound center Lance Burlingame. The bulky but mobile post player, an ESPNBoston All-State selection in football, came up with 21 rebounds to go along with 13 points in the loss, tipping many balls just out of reach of Marshfield players and muscling his way into its grasp.
"That's what we need out of him," Tarpey said. "As long as he stays out of foul trouble, he should do that all game. He had been getting in alot of foul trouble lately, so that was it."