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Globe North Sports Notebook

Merrimack’s Tiffany Colon gives her all

Tiffany Colon Tiffany Colon
By John Vellante
Globe Correspondent / February 28, 2010

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Tiffany Colon plays tough every day, whether it’s a practice session against her teammates at Merrimack College or a matchup against a Northeast-10 Conference foe.

Her coach, Helen Williams, expects nothing less from her junior guard out of Lawrence High.

“Since [Colon] has been here, I’ve seen nothing but a hard-hat mentality from her,’’ said Williams. “I have never seen her not have a hard practice, even when she’s hurt. She’s highly competitive.’’

This season, she has been instrumental in the Warriors’ late-season rush to earning a berth in the postseason, which included a stunning upset of Franklin Pierce, the top-ranked team in Division 2, as well as a win over nationally ranked Stonehill.

The 5-foot-9 Colon, who is averaging 8.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, netted a dozen points against both Franklin Pierce and Stonehill and a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) in a pivotal victory against St. Michael’s. This afternoon, Colon and 12th-seeded Merrimack (11-16 overall, 9-13 NE-10) will play at the fifth-seeded College of Saint Rose in the first round of the conference playoffs.

“She has taken on a more vocal role in making sure her teammates are as competitive as she is,’’ said Williams. “That part of her personality has certainly grown this year and her teammates feed off’’ it.

Colon was highly regarded at Lawrence High and recruited to the University of Maine by former Merrimack coach Ann McInerney. An MCL sprain limited her to spot action her freshman year, and when McInerney left after two years, Colon transferred to Northern Essex Community College. While there, she applied for, and received, an academic scholarship to Merrimack. That attracted Williams’s attention.

“While she was at Northern Essex, I had lots of people coming to see me and telling me what a good basketball player she was . . .,’’ said Williams. “I figured she had to be a good kid if so many people were telling me about her. What impressed me most, though, was the fact that she put her education before basketball. She got herself admitted to Merrimack on her own academic merits. That impressed me. She just also happened to have a good jumper and was competitive.’’

Now, she is at Merrimack on an academic and athletic scholarship.

In the upset of Franklin Pierce, Colon was heroic. She drained a 3-pointer with 3:05 left that put Merrimack ahead to stay, 64-62; had a key block of a shot with 59 seconds left; a defensive rebound with 18 seconds left; and two free throws with 17 seconds left that sealed things.

When the final buzzer sounded and the Warriors had halted Franklin Pierce’s 28-game regular season winning streak, Colon said she was in “another world, excited and speechless and shocked all at the same time. We didn’t go into the game thinking we were going to lose,’’ she said, “and at the end of the day we knew if we did our job everything would be OK. It was the biggest win I have ever experienced. Before, beating Stonehill was tops.’’

“This was huge for our team and the program,’’ added Williams. “It was good for the players to see the positive result of their hard work. . . . Our goal at the beginning of the season was to make the playoffs and get past the first round. We haven’t done that.’’

That effort begins today.

Campus corner
Bridgewater State junior Judah Jackson of Everett and Salem State freshman Brianna Wilson of Lowell are men’s and women’s MASCAC basketball players of the week. Jackson averaged 26 points and 7.5 rebounds in a break-even week for the regular-season champion Bears, and Wilson averaged 16.5 points and nine rebounds in wins over Worcester State and Bridgewater State. . . . Merrimack goaltender Joe Cannata of Wakefield stopped 63 of 64 shots in a weekend sweep of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is Hockey East defensive player of the week. In five games since returning to the lineup this month, Cannata was 4-0-1 with a 1.18 goals against average. . . . Lesley senior Hailee Lowe of Hamilton netted her 1,000th career point in a 71-47 win over Wheelock, the third player in program history to reach the milestone. . . . Senior Jacquie Barrett won the shot put and the 4x400 relay team, which included sophomore Nicole Giaquinto of Winthrop, set a meet record to lead the University of Massachusetts Lowell to its second straight Northeast-10 Conference championship. The men’s team finished third behind school record-setting efforts of junior Cory Murray of Methuen in the shot put and freshman Evan White of Tewksbury in the 200 meters.

Around and about
North Andover’s Tommy O’Connell and Hamilton-Wenham’s Matt Cook are Cape Ann League Large and Small Division MVPs. It was the second straight MVP honor for O’Connell, who averaged more than 11 points per game for the Scarlet Knights. O’Connell’s and Cook’s respective coaches, Mike McVeigh and Doug Hoak, were Coaches of the Year. . . . The Lynnfield-North Reading wrestling team, coached by Craig Stone, won the Division 3 Team Sportsmanship and Professionalism Award chosen by the Massachusetts Wrestling Officials Association. . . . Over Thirty Baseball Inc., based in Lowell, is looking for players. In its 19th season, the organization has 16 teams and nearly 250 players across the state. Call 978-453-4444 or visit otbinc.com.

Send ideas or information to JohnPvel@aol.com.