No. Andover Stops Tewksbury's Win Streak At Six
Jan 30, 2015 11:15PM
By Rick Spencer
Adam Gajjaoui (23) drives to the hoop for two of his team-high 18 points against North Andover.
Tewksbury High basketball coach Phil Conners knew his team had to keep North Andover superstar Wabissa Bede under wraps if the Redmen were going to extend their current six-game win streak Friday night, but knowing what to do and actually going out and executing it are often two different things.
“He’s a great player, he’s a stud, and we let him get off again,” said Conners after Bede, the Scarlet Knights’ 6-1 junior superstar, lit up Tewksbury for 28 points and led North Andover to a 65-61 win over the Redmen. “We were hoping to hold him to 15 points or less, we figured that would be a win for us. But we made multiple tactical errors as far as how we were supposed to guard him and he hurt us.”
Tewksbury failed to protect a 35-30 halftime lead and fell to just its second defeat in 15 games. The Redmen are currently 13-2 overall, and 8-2 in Merrimack Valley Conference play.
Bede wasn’t the only challenge Tewksbury couldn’t overcome, as the taller Scarlet Knights enjoyed a huge advantage in offensive rebounds that led to multiple second-chance baskets. Forwards Spencer Reeve, a 6-4 senior, and Alex Romano, a 6-4 junior, combined for 17 critical points all from inside the paint.
“Their offensive rebounding killed us,” Conners said. “We had some great defensive possessions that ended with them getting an offensive rebound. That killed us.”
Despite not having played in a week, Tewksbury got off to a hot start in this game as senior captain Alex DiRocco scored nine first quarter points and junior point guard Nate Tenaglia added seven while Tewksbury jumped out to a 23-15 lead. Junior forward Adam Gajjaoui and senior forward Joe Csokmay tossed in six points each in the second quarter, and Tewksbury took a 35-30 lead into the locker room at halftime.
But Bede took control of the game in the third quarter scoring eight important points, and the Redmen lost their shooting touch, connecting on just 4-of-12 shots in the period. The Redmen managed just 11 points – one of their lowest scoring quarters of the season – in the third and North Andover surged to 52-46 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“All we talked about at half time was how to shut him (Bede) down, but then we went out in the third quarter and gave him three wide open looks and he made all three,” Conners said. “He made some tough shots, too. He’s a great player and he’s gonna do that. It’s the wide open looks that you can’t afford to give him.”
The Redmen mustered a spirited defensive effort over the final eight minutes, and pulled to within three a 59-56 with 3:00 left to play. But, in spite of having several shots at it, Tewksbury couldn’t come up with that much-needed game-tying three-pointer down the stretch, and North Andover hung on for the win.
“We got good look after good look but we didn’t make the shots,” Conners said. “Top to bottom we were out-coached and out-played. The loose ball battles, the rebounding battles, they won them all.”
Gajjaoui led Tewksbury with 18 points, almost exclusively on athletic drives to the hoop. DiRocco, who could break into the coveted 1,000-point club at TMHS by season’s end, finished with 17 points. DiRocco currently has 882 career points with seven regular season games to play. He needs to average 17 points per game to score 1,000 by the end of the regular season.
Tenaglia finished with 13 points against North Andover and senior forward Joe Csokmay added eight. Justin Derrah had three and Henry Roberts two.
Tewksbury’s loss would have tightened up the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 standings a bit, had second-place Billerica not lost to Andover, 62-56, Friday night. Billerica now sits at 5-4 in conference play, with five league games left to play, including a home game against Central Catholic and a rematch with the Redmen (in Tewksbury) on February 10th. Tewksbury, which has already qualified for MIAA post-season tournament play, has four MVC games left to play, three of which come against teams (Dracut, Haverhill and Billerica) that the Redmen have already beat this year. Up next for Tewksbury is a Tuesday night home game against Methuen, which stood at 7-7 overall and 5-5 in the conference before playing at Central on Saturday evening.