Redmen Explode For 33 In Third, Crush Dracut 84-46
Adam Gajjaoui (23) scored a career-high 22 points to pace Tewksbury to a lop-sided 84-46 win over Dracut.
Gallery: Dracut at Tewksbury basketball [7 Images] Click any image to expand.
There are those who might say that Tewksbury High basketball coach Phil Conners is a perfectionist; never satisfied with anything less than his team’s absolute best effort.
If so, Conners got what he wanted Friday night.
For eight beautiful minutes in the third quarter of what had been a close game up until halftime, the TMHS Redmen played flawless basketball on both ends of the floor and buried visiting Dracut High with a 33-point offensive barrage while holding the Middies to just four points of their own. The result was a resounding, 84-46 victory that improves Tewksbury’s record to 9-1 overall, 5-1 in Merrimack Valley Conference play.
“There was just a noticeably higher level of intensity in that (third) quarter,” Conners said after watching his team stretch a 36-31 halftime lead into a 69-35 laugher going into the fourth quarter. “Guys were flying around on rotations, keeping guys in front of them, attacking the rim. And off that we didn’t have to call a play. It was lay-up, lay-up, lay-up. We were just rebounding every ball, we got steals. We broke them.”
The Redmen connected on 14-of-19 shots from the field (73.7 percent) mostly because 10 of their 14 third-quarter field goals came on lightly-contested or uncontested fast break lay-ups. TMHS stole the ball four times in the quarter, committed just one turnover and did not allow Dracut a single offensive rebound while showing the world exactly what Conners has been telling people that this team is capable of all season long.
“That’s the stats (that count the most), turnovers and offensive rebounds,” Conners said. “I feel like we’ve been playing a little passively, hoping guys miss. But my message has been ‘Let’s make them miss or take the ball,’ and that’s what we did.”
Dracut connected on only two of 12 shots in the third-quarter, and Tewksbury grabbed every rebound when the Middies missed.
Junior forward Adam Gajjaoui benefited more than anyone from Tewksbury’s defensive pressure, grabbing nine rebounds and getting out on the fast break early and often. Gajjaoui followed up a career-high 19 point effort against Bedford on Wednesday with a new career-high of 22 points against Dracut.
“We were looking to play hard and make them turn over the ball so we could get out on the fast break, and that’s what was working tonight,” Gajjaoui said. “Coach is really motivating us to work our hardest, and I think that’s what we did.”
“I thought Adam had a noticeable explosion to his game today, especially on the break,” Conners said. “Adam is a wide receiver by trade. You can throw it further without worrying if he’s going to get it. He’s a great athlete. He’s going to get it.”
Making matters worse for the Middies was the fact that TMHS senior guard Alex DiRocco absolutely sizzled from three-point territory on Friday, swishing five out of the six shots he took from beyond the arc. DiRocco finished with 17 points on the night.
”When Alex shoots good, we’re good,” Conners said. “Basically, we go as he goes out there.”
Junior forward Justin Derrah had another strong night scoring 15 points, while senior forward Joe Csokmay scored 10 points, grabbed five rebounds and handed out six assists. The only Tewksbury starter not to score in double figures was junior point guard Nate Tenaglia (7 points), who more than made up for that by dishing out an eye-popping 13 assists and grabbing four steals.
“Nate was unbelievable,” Conners said. “Thirteen assists? That’s a crazy number in high school. When a kid has six or seven assists in a high school game, that’s a big assist game. Thirteen is just nuts.”
The Redmen actually got a chance to use their bench extensively in this one, as sixth man Henry Roberts tossed in a career-best nine points, and crowd favorite Petros Nocopoulos added four.
Overall, it was exactly the kind of effort that Conners has been waiting for.
“That was the click,” Conners said. “We’ve been struggling a little bit offensively, but if you do what we did tonight defensively, you’re not going to have any offensive struggles.”
TMHS returns to action with a home game against Bedford at 7:00 pm. Monday night, followed by a critical road test at Andover on Tuesday.
Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/yourtewksburytoday/ Follow us on Twitter at @TewksburyToday Follow us on Instagram at YourTewksburyToday