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Your Tewksbury Today

Redmen Outlast Haverhill, 74-66

Dec 12, 2014 11:46PM ● By Rick Spencer

Senior guard Alex DiRocco's 15 second-half points sparked Tewksbury to a 74-66 opening night win over Haverhill.

It wasn't too long ago that Tewksbury High basketball coach Phil Conners would have gladly accepted any kind of a win against a Merrimack Valley Conference opponent.
But even after watching senior guards Nate Tenaglia and Alex DiRocco combine for 38 points in a 74-66 opening night victory over Haverhill Friday night, Conners wasn't exactly tossing superlatives around the locker room afterward.
"I know I'm being a little bit negative, but this is an experienced team and I expected more out of them tonight," said Conners after his Redmen overcame several periods of cold shooting and sloppy play before securing this all-important first win. "If I had to give this game a grade, I'd give it a D. I thought we'd come out more mature than we did. I'm sure our guys were a little tense. We've got expectations for this team."
Certainly, expectations are high for the defending Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 champions this winter. ESPN Boston released it's pre-season high school hoop rankings today and TMHS landed in the No. 17 spot in the state, which is rarefied air for a program that had struggled to break .500 for nearly two decades prior to last year's 14-8 season.
But like many teams, the Redmen experienced a case of opening night jitters early on, turning the ball over on each of their first three trips down the court and falling behind, 7-0, in the first 2:17 of the game. The jitters din't last long, though, as Tenaglia, the team's speedy point guard, and junior forward Justin Derrah righted the ship by leading Tewksbury on a 17-3 run over the next five minutes, quickly restoring order to the new TMHS gymnasium.
Still, the Redmen went on a roller coaster ride of productive runs offset by sloppy periods of play, and trailed at half-time, 31-29.
It wasn't until DiRocco, who was last season's Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 Most Valuable Player, came to life in the third quarter (15 of his 17 points came in the second half) that Tewksbury was able to take control of the contest and build a comfortable lead.
"Any time we ran our offense well, we got something really good out of it," Conners said. "But multiple times we called stuff and guys were in the wrong place. You know, first game stuff."
The most critical part of the game was the first five minutes of the third quarter, when DiRocco's ball-hawking defense and fast-break speed sparked Tewksbury to a 17-3 run that turned a two-point halftime deficit into a 46-34 lead.
" I thought Alex had a great second half," Conners said. "He played extremely well in the second half. And Nate (Tenaglia) was really good, too. He controlled the tempo the whole way."
Tewksbury pushed its lead as high as 16 in the latter stages of the fourth quarter, before another stretch of sloppy play in the closing minutes helped the final margin of victory slip back to eight.
Tenaglia finished with a team-high 21 points, while DiRocco had 17 and Derrah added 16 points and 10 rebounds. Junior forward Adam Gajjaoui added eight points, senior captain Joe Coskmay contributed seven, and senior forward Henry Roberts came off the bench to chip in five.
"We were awful at times, but we still scored 70 points and won," Conners said. "And win and learn is better than lose and learn. I know I'm being tough on them but as a coach, I'm looking at more than tonight. And (tonight's effort) doesn't win many MVC games. So we'll get back in the gym on Sunday and fix it. Hopefully it was a wake-up call."
The Redmen return to action Tuesday night at home against Chelmsford.
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