Redmen Continue Their Roll With 68-60 Win Over Lowell
Jan 20, 2015 11:09PM
By Rick Spencer
Justin Derrrah (42) scored 21 points to lead Tewksbury to a 68-60 win over Lowell.
There was a time in the not-too-distant past when a win over Lowell was such a big deal for the Tewksbury High basketball team that the town fathers would have loaded the Redmen onto the back of a fire engine and paraded them up and down Main Street for a while.
So perhaps it shows just how far this TMHS program has come, when Tuesday night’s 68-60 win over Lowell – the second in two years for the Redmen -- barely elicited a smile from the Tewksbury High coaching staff.
“Last year we were really excited when we beat (Lowell),” TMHS head coach Phil Conners said afterward. “But tonight we played like we thought we were going to win, and we were just going to do what we had to do. We knew it was a game that we thought we should go get, and I think that was part of the problem, because we didn’t show any urgency until the second half.”
Fortunately, junior forward Justin Derrah brought enough intensity for his entire team in the second half, scoring 15 of his team-high 21 points over the final two quarters to lead the Redmen to their fifth straight win, and 12th victory in 13 games this season.
“I thought Justin had his best game of the season,” Conners said. “He scored 21 points and all 21 of them were important, really important. We wanted to get him the ball in the post because we thought he had a major (match-up) advantage. In the second half we told them to just “get it to Justin inside because he can score every time.’”
Tewksbury did seem to lack its usual intensity in the first half of this contest, and thanks mostly to the efforts of junior guard Sean Bryan, Lowell played the Redmen dead even over the first two quarters, and the game was tied 29-29 at the half. Bryan scored 19 of his game-high 31 points for Lowell in the first half.
“Our number one objective was to contain Bryan, and we didn’t do a very good job of it,” Conners said. “It was just a lackadaisical effort. It was typical for a team that had just had a week off after coming off a big win (over Andover last Tuesday). It was a bad first half for us.”
So Conners offered a few bits of advice at half time and his Redmen responded in the third period, outscoring Lowell 20-14 and taking a 49-43 lead into the fourth quarter. Senior guard Alex DiRocco scored seven of his 11 points on the night in that period and the Redmen, who hadn’t connected from three-point distance since the first quarter, swished back-to-back three-pointers in the final minute of the period to begin putting some distance between them and the Red Raiders.
Derrah then put his foot down in the fourth period, taking charge of the backboards and scoring 11 of his 21 points over the final eight minutes. Derrah’s biggest bucket of the night came with 2:40 to play when he responded to a Bryan three-pointer with a 24-foot bomb of his own to push the lead back up to seven at 60-53. Tewksbury then went six-for-six from the free throw line in the final minute of play to close the door on Lowell.
“Justin’s three was huge,” Conners said afterward. “He answered when we needed it. He’s tough. He had a great game tonight.”
Junior guard Nate Tenaglia scored 14 points and dished out eight assists on the night, while DiRocco finished with 11 points, four assists and two steals. Senior forward Joe Csokmay scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds and junior forward Adam Gajjaoui scored nine points and had six rebounds.
“We made the adjustments when we had to,” Conners said. “ We’ve had to make second half adjustments all year. There’s been a different tenor to our second halves compared to our first halves. I just want to see us come out with that urgency in the first half.”
Tewksbury now stands 12-1 on the season, 7-1 in Merrimack Valley Conference play, and Conners had to concede that, although this wasn’t his team’s best showing of the season, back-to-back wins over perennial MVC powers Andover and Lowell are a rare sighting in Tewksbury.
“It’s pretty good when we’re going in feeling like crap over a win against Lowell,” Conners said. “That says we’ve come a long way.”
Tewksbury, which has already qualified for MIAA post-season play, resumes its quest for its second straight MVC Division 2 championship on Friday when the Redmen travel to Chelmsford for a 7:00 p.m. game.