TAUNTON, Mass.- – One pre-season scouting report described New Bedford senior guard Rylin Collazo as “The team’s floor general who can do it all.”
To say that report was accurate would be like saying Larry Bird knew something about playing basketball.
The 5-foot-5 Collazo played like he was 6-foot-5 on Sunday as he scored 31 points (including a trio of three-pointers) which helped the Whalers upset No. 10 Taunton, 77-76 in a non-league game on Tyree Weston’s tip-in with 2.0 seconds remaining.
Not only did the victory break Taunton’s five-game winning streak but it also put the Whalers (10-4) in better position to qualify for the MIAA playoffs.
“He does everything for us,” Whalers coach Tom Tarpey said. “He gets us in our offense. He hits big shots. When we spread the floor, there aren’t many people who can stay with him. He’s extremely fast with the basketball. And he was finishing today.
“And the foul line...He struggled early in the year from the foul line. But in the last couple of games, he’s been lights out. He’s really worked on it hard. After the first eight games, he was shooting something like 46 percent.”
Against Taunton (11-2), Collazo shot a scalding 91 percent (10-for-11) at the stripe.
Weston added 18 points while Quincy Pope chipped in with 11.
Shaquille Davis paced Taunton with 22 while Anthony Parker added 18 and Gerald Cortijo 13.
Crunch time: Davis scored on a driving layup and was fouled with 49.6 seconds left. But he missed the free throw which left Taunton’s lead at 76-73.
Weston then was fouled on a three-point shot and sank two of his three free throws to slice the Whalers’ deficit to one point. But after a Taunton miss, Weston snared a missed shot and tipped it in.
A last-second heave by Parker fell way short which enabled New Bedford to bus home with a prime victory –- one which underscored the Whalers’ resilience because they trailed by as many as 11 points (48-37) early in the second half. And except for two small leads early in the game, New Bedford never led again until Weston came through in the end.
“We were down at the end of the first half (43-35),” Tarpey said. “They went on a little run. We’re a young team and could have folded. We played at their place against one of the best teams in the state and we didn’t.
“We kept plugging. We gutted it out. We had a couple of guys hurt and we had guys playing different positions. But we dug down and got stops when we needed to get stops.”
The Whalers without question got stops in the fourth quarter due in large part to their tenacious defense.
The Tigers, who shot 49.2 percent (32-for-65) for the game, connected on a mere 35.7 percent (5-for-14) of their shots in the fourth quarter.
Putting the “D” in defense: “This week in practice we practiced really hard,” Collazo said. “Today, we were a little sloppy at times on ‘D’ but we picked it up at the end when it counted.
“When we put our minds on defense, we play very well. That’s what picks up our offense for us.”
Collazo’s point was verified by the fact New Bedford outscored Taunton, 19-13, in the final period and held the Tigers to one lone basket in the first 3:41 of that seession.
Davis went “off” in the first half as he scored 12 of his points - including a jumper that sparked a 13-3 run which gave Taunton a 36-26 lead.
Davis and Parker then combined for five points early in the third quarter which gave Taunton its largest lead of the game (48-37).
But Collazo torched Taunton for 13 points in that quarter, which helped New Bedford pull within 63-58 at the break.
“I definitely was in a zone today,” Collazo said in a massive understatement. “But we never give up. We just played hard until the end of the game.”
Collazo figured in that “end-of-the-game” mix because he sank both ends of a two-shot foul and drained his last trey, with 2:07 left, which sliced his team’s deficit to 72-71.
“We played a little matchup zone but we mostly played man,” Tarpey said. “Actually we went with a 2-3 zone on their last possession just to confuse them and we got the ball back. But we’re mostly a man team.
“We play summer league against these guys all the time. We know them and they know us. We know Shaquille’s a great player. Cortijo’s a great player. Parker had a great game. But we hung in there.
“My sophomores, Quincy Pope and Tyree Weston, really picked us up,” Tarpey added. “And Rylin Collazo was just phenomenal again tonight."