Central Ends Tewksbury's Unbeaten Streak, 78-64
Senior forward Joe Csokmay (35) powers his way to the basket against Central Catholic.
Gallery: Central at Tewksbury [6 Images] Click any image to expand.
To a betting man, this one might have looked obvious.
The Tewksbury High Redmen were undefeated at 7-0, exceeding all expectations and bound to lose sometime. And the Central Catholic Raiders were an uncharacteristic 2-5, back to full strength after some early season suspensions, and in desperate need of a Merrimack Valley Conference victory.
So it should probably come as little or no surprise that Central came out on top in this highly-anticipated MVC cross-over showdown Tuesday night at Tewksbury High. What wasn’t expected, however, was the authoritative way in which Central overpowered Tewksbury, 78-64, in front of a packed house at the TMHS gymnasium.
“We weren’t tough enough,” said a disappointed Tewksbury coach Phil Conners afterward. “Central has a culture of playing really hard and playing really tough and getting up in you, and we just played completely soft. We came up with a soft, soft effort.”
Unlike their recent performances in big MVC wins over Chelmsford, Lawrence and Billerica, the Redmen looked tentative and unsure of themselves in the first quarter, and Central took charge from the get-go. The visiting Raiders were red hot from the field and the free throw line in the early going, and jumped out to a 17-3 lead after just five minutes of play.
Senior forward Joe Csokmay and junior guard Nate Tenaglia showed sparks of life hitting three-point bombs late in the quarter, but the Redmen trailed 24-10 after one period.
Things didn’t get any better in the second period as Central controlled the backboards, got out on the fast break, and hounded the Redmen when they had the ball. Offensively, Central simply could not miss, shooting well in excess of 60 percent from the floor.
The contest was all but decided when Central took a 45-25 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“We shot the ball extremely well tonight,” said Central coach Rick Nault afterward. “The kids came out ready to play. No question it was our best shooting night of the year. I wish we could come out and shoot like that every night.”
But Conners was more concerned about the effect the Raiders’ defense had on his team.
“They just took the ball from us.” Conners lamented. “We threw the ball away. We wouldn’t cut, we couldn’t do anything offensively. They come at you in waves, with guys who just get up in you, and we just completely melted.”
Tewksbury battled back in the second half and slowed Central’s offensive onslaught with a stronger defensive effort, but still trailed, 63-39 after three periods. The Redmen battled hard throughout the fourth period and outscored Central, 25-15, to make the final score respectable. But there was no talk of moral victories for the Redmen afterward, as this Tewksbury team, now 7-1 on the season, has become one where losses don’t sit well.
“We knew that pressure was coming but we just didn’t play hard enough,” Conners said. “As the game went on I thought we played a little better defensively, but it was just not good enough. Any time we started to do something, they’d take an offensive rebound out of our hands and put it in. If we don’t rebound we’ll never be good.
“I saw it coming,” Conners added. “If I was a bettor I’d have been loading up on them…This was their season. This team was desperate and desperate teams play hard. We didn’t play hard at all. We played like we could take a loss.”
One of the few bright spots for Tewksbury was the play of Csokmay, who scored 11 points, grabbed nine rebounds and never backed down from Central all night.
“Joe was the one guy who worked his butt off tonight,” Conners said. “He went out and left it all out there.”
Senior guard Alex DiRocco caught fire (eight points) in the fourth quarter and finished with a team-high 17 points for Tewksbury. Tenaglia scored 15 points, and junior forwards Justin Derrah and Adam Gajjaoui added eight each.
The Redmen will have no time to lick their wounds as they get right back into it with a non-league road game Wednesday evening at Bedford High School. It’s an early, 5:30 p.m. start.
“The best thing about tonight is that we play again tomorrow,” Conners said.
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