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Derrah Leads Redmen Over Malden, 80-63

Dec 24, 2014 12:19AM ● By Rick Spencer

Justin Derrah (42) goes up for two of his caeer-high 23 points against Malden.

MALDEN - On a night when the Tewksbury High offense had about as much trouble getting started as a 1976 Dodge Dart on a single-digit January morning, junior forward Justin Derrah became the latest member of the TMHS basketball team to step up and say “hop on my back” to his teammates Tuesday night.

Derrah scored 13 of his career-high 23 points in the second quarter as the Redmen shook off an icy cold start and extended their early-season unbeaten streak to four straight games with a convincing, 80-63 win over previously unbeaten Malden High in front of a less-than-friendly crowd at the Roy G. Finn Gymnasium.

Derrah, whose previous career high was 16 points, added eight rebounds and a strong defensive effort to his night’s work, as Tewksbury improved to 4-0 on the season.

“Justin had a huge game, I thought he was awesome finishing,” TMHS head coach Phil Conners said. “We’ve been talking about getting him some looks on the block because he’s really good down there. We’ve got three main scorers and he hadn’t been one to have a big game yet, so I was glad he did.”

The Redmen connected on just three of their first 10 shots and committed five first quarter turnovers, trailing 15-13 after one period. But Derrah took control of the boards in the second quarter and scored 13 points  in the period, as Tewksbury stormed out to a 44-28 halftime lead.

Derrah, who stands just 6-feet even, is the closest thing the Redmen have to a low post player. It’s not unusual for him to give away three-to-six inches in height to the player he is defending, but he makes up what he lacks in height with physical strength, hard work and determination.

“He’s a lunch pail guy,” Conners said. “He’s not a guy who goes up and dunks the ball. But he’s freakish strong. When I play against him in practice he has the strength of kids I played against in college. He’s incredibly strong, he’s fundamentally sound and he can shoot it. He’s a great kid to coach because he brings it every day.”

Derrah was not without his supporting cast, however, as senior guard Alex DiRocco had another strong performance, tossing in 20 points and adding four steals and four assists. Junior guard Nate Tenaglia shook off some early foul trouble and scored 16 points, highlighted by a perfect 10-for-10 performance from the free throw line. Tenaglia also led the team with eight assists.

Free throws were Tewksbury’s best friend on this night, as the Redmen took advantage of Malden’s first-half foul trouble and overcame the 15-13 first quarter deficit by outscoring the Golden Tornadoes, 15-3, from the charity stripe in the second quarter. Tenaglia was 8-for-8 from the line in the second, as the Redmen got Malden into the bonus with six minutes left in the first half and converted 15-of-16 free throw attempts to turn a two-point deficit into a 16-point lead.

“I thought we played really intelligent in the second quarter, being in the bonus,” Conners said. “We made them cover our guys and (the referees) called it tight and we just won the game at the free throw line.”

On the flip side, Tewksbury managed its foul trouble magnificently. Tenaglia, who picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter, was able to remain productive and finish the game with just three fouls. And as a team, the Redmen were whistled for their seventh foul of the second half while leading by 14 with 6:36 still to play, but only sent Malden to the free throw line four times after that.

“Basketball is a game of adjustments and I thought we adjusted (to the foul trouble) pretty well,” Conners said. “We had to go to our zones and our zone traps, but we did a good job with it. I liked how we managed Nate’s two fouls early, because that’s gonna happen. Sometimes you have to learn to play with two, and he did a really good job not picking up his third and scoring while he did it.”

Junior forward Adam Gajjoui and senior all-purpose man Henry Roberts each added seven points, while senior guard Derek McGaffigan (two points) and junior forward Ryan Briggs (three points) each got into the scorebook for the first time this season.

Defensively, Tewksbury held Malden’s top scorer, senior guard Skip Langston, to 18 points, which his six below his season’s average. More importantly, only six of Langston’s 18 points came in the first three quarters. He added 12 in the fourth after the game was all but out of reach.

“I was disappointed in a lot of things tonight,” Conners said. “It was a typical letdown scenario after the big win in Lawrence, and we got off to a bad start. But we were able to adjust. We didn’t play as well as we could have but we still scored 80 points, so that says something good about this team.”

The win improves Tewksbury to 4-0 overall, 3-0 in the Merrimack Valley Conference as the Redmen prepare to host the Knights of Columbus Holiday Tournament this weekend in the new Tewksbury High gymnasium.

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