Redmen Hold Off Chelmsford For Sixth Straight Win, 63-55
Jan 23, 2015 11:48PM
By Rick Spencer
Tewksbury's Adam Gajjaoui (23) drives to the hoop against Chelmsford.
If there was ever going to be a night when the Tewksbury High basketball team stumbled in its quest to capture this year’s Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 championship, Friday night probably should have been the night.
The Redmen went on the road to face a Chelmsford team that was sky-high after upsetting Andover Tuesday night, and the TMHS starting five made matters worse by leaving their outside shooting game in the visitor’s locker room until halftime.
But somehow, coach Phil Conners’ under-sized band of over-achievers got its act together in the second half and put together its sixth straight victory, 63-55, improving its record to an eye-popping 13-1 on the season.
“They were playing like they had nothing to lose, and we just couldn’t put the ball in the basket,” said TMHS coach Phil Conners afterward. “I thought we matched their intensity for the most part, but we just missed every shot we took, especially in the first half.”
Tewksbury’s outside shooting was downright miserable for the first two quarters, as Chelmsford came out in a zone defense and forced the Redmen to shoot over it. Tewksbury connected just three times from three-point territory in the first two quarters, going an ice cold 3-for-18 from beyond the arc, and Chelmsford scrapped its way to a 30-30 halftime tie.
“They left some of our guys open and dared them to shoot,” Conners said. “And we took the shots and missed them all.”
But senior captain Alex DiRocco single-handedly reversed Tewksbury’s fortunes in the early going of the third quarter, hitting a pair of three-pointers and scoring 10 straight points for the Redmen, as TMHS dug in defensively and built a 40-32 lead over the first four minutes of the period. DiRocco scored 16 of his team-high 21 points in the second half, but Chelmsford refused to go easy in this one.
Led by senior guard Jack Campsmith’s game-high 24-point effort, Chelmsford tied the game at 46-46 early in the fourth quarter, before Tewksbury put the Lions away with a stretch of ball-hawking defense and much-improved outside shooting. Junior guard Nate Tenaglia, junior forward Justin Derrah and senior sixth-man Henry Roberts all buried critical three-pointers in the final seven minutes of the game, and Tewksbury pulled away to the 63-55 win.
“I thought we defended well in the second half and I though the energy Henry (Roberts) brought really sparked us,” Conners said. “I thought we did a really good job in that fourth quarter locking down and getting stops and getting lay-ups in transition.”
Tenaglia and Derrah both finished with 10 points for Tewksbury while Roberts and senior forward Joe Csokmay had eight each. Junior swingman Adam Gajjaoui added five points and senior guard Derek McGaffigan had one.
Overall, Conners classified the win as a step in the right direction for the Redmen, in spite of their shooting woes.
“Any road win in the league is a good win. Especially when you shoot the way we did,” Conners said. “It was probably our worst shooting night of the year, but we’re a shooting team, and we’ll continue to be a shooting team, even on nights like this. We’ll take 50 (three-pointers) if they give it to us, and we’ll make those down the road. We’ll shoot that again and again and again and at the end of the year that won’t be an issue for us. We’ll make those shots.”
The Redmen, who are ranked 10th in the state (among all divisions) in the latest ESPN-Boston poll, are now 8-1 against all MVC opponents, and a perfect 5-0 against MVC Division 2 teams. They can take another step toward securing the MVC Division 2 championship when they play at Haverhill next Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.