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Tenaglia Leads Redmen To Record 16th Win, 74-66 Over Malden

Feb 06, 2015 11:54PM ● By Rick Spencer

Nate Tenaglia (4) flies through the lane for two of his 27 points against Malden.

There are probably a lot of reasons why the Tewksbury High boys’ basketball team should not have won its record-setting 16th game of the season Friday night, but none of them were important enough to stop junior guard Nate Tenaglia from stepping up and getting the job done.

Senior captain Joe Csokmay was on the bench in street clothes dealing with a pulled leg muscle, and the Redmen were coming off a benchmark win in a slugfest with Tyngsboro High just 24 hours earlier. But Tenaglia ignored all that stuff and tossed in 27 huge points in leading Tewksbury to 74-66 come-from-behind non-league victory over visiting Malden High.

“Not having Joe in there definitely changed our game plan,” Tenaglia said afterward. “He’s a big part of our team. He rebounds, he scores, he plays defense. He does everything for us, so it’s a big thing not having him. So we definitely felt like we had to do a little bit more than usual, scoring, passing, playing defense. Just working a little bit harder. As a captain and a three-year starter this year, I definitely felt more responsibility tonight.”

Tenaglia scored his 27 points by shooting 6-for-12 from three-point range and a perfect 4-for-4 on two-point fields goals. He added seven assists, six rebounds and four steals in one of the top all-around performances from any of the Redmen this season.

“Nate was awesome,” said TMHS head coach Phil Conners. “It was the end of a three-game week, we were playing without Joe, and I can’t tell you how valuable Joe is -- he just does so much for us. But Nate was awesome. He just controlled that game from beginning to end. It was a great shooting performance. He was awesome.”

The Redmen trailed for most of the first half, falling behind 10-2 early and trailing 15-10 at the end of the first period. But Tenaglia rallied the troops in the second quarter with a solo run of eight straight points (two three-pointers followed by a steal that he finished with a short jumper) and Tewksbury scrapped back to within one at 29-28 at half-time. TMHS saw key contributions from several substitutes in the second quarter including four timely points from senior forward Petros Nacopoulos.

The Redmen took control of the game in the opening minutes of the third quarter when Tenaglia, senior guard Alex DiRocco, junior forward Adam Gajjaoui and senior forward Henry Roberts (starting in place of Csokmay) combined for a 13-2 Tewksbury run that gave TMHS a lead it would never relinquish. Tenaglia scored 10 third quarter points, and in spite of two late three-pointers from Malden, the Redmen took a 49-43 lead into the fourth quarter.

If the game was still in doubt at that point, it only took about 90 seconds of the final period to settle things. Tenaglia (one) and DiRocco (two) connected on three straight three-point bombs as Tewksbury went on a 10-1 run and pushed its lead into double digits. Malden would not get closer than eight points behind in the game’s final six minutes, and Tewksbury racked up its 16th win against only two losses this season.

“Overall, I’ll take that win,” Conners said afterward. “We struggled early but that was predictable, coming off an intense game against Tyngsboro and with Joe out. I had to try a bunch of different guys and I thought a few of them stepped up. I thought Petros (Nacopoulos) had a big game.”

Nacopoulos finished with a career-high six points and Roberts contributed seven points in his first start of the season. DiRocco was his usual explosive self, finishing with 15 points, five assists and four steals. Gajjaoui scored 11 points and junior forward Justin Derrah had seven. Senior guard Derek McGaffigan scored one point and contributed quality minutes off the bench for the second straight night.

“It was tough (playing) without Joe, but Petros and a couple other guys did some good things,” Tenaglia said. “I think that’s going to help us down the stretch.”

With the win, Tewksbury improves to 16-2 overall, and 9-2 in Merrimack Valley Conference play. The Redmen, who have already qualified for state tournament play, can lock up their second consecutive MVC Division 2 championship with a win against Billerica (7:00 p.m. in Tewksbury) on Tuesday night. The Indians stayed mathematically eligible when they improved their MVC record to 6-5 with a 57-44 win over Haverhill Friday night. TMHS needs just one more win in its final three MVC games to clinch the small school title.

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