DiRocco Scores His 1,000th point, Redmen blast Wilmington, 92-63
Alex DiRocco (3) became the third player in TMHS boys basketball history to score 1,000 points
Senior guard Alex DiRocco became just the third player in Tewksbury High boys’ basketball history to score 1,000 career points on Tuesday night, and he did it in style.
The TMHS captain broke open a close game scoring 21 second-half points and finished with a season-high 30 points to spark the Redmen to a 92-63 win over Wilmington in Tewksbury’s 2014-2015 regular season finale.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment for Alex,” TMHS head coach Phil Conners said. “To score 1,000 points in high school is no small task. But he made the commitment from his freshmen year. Each year he’s gotten better. Last year he was conference player of the year and this year he’s raised his scoring average even higher. He’s been a great player for me.”
Truth be told, Conners probably wouldn’t know what to do without DiRocco on his squad, as the fourth-year head coach noticed DiRocco immediately after accepting the job in the fall of 2011.
“I went to watch the kids play in a fall league game and Alex stood out immediately,” Conners said. “He was young and raw, but right away you could see he had a basketball knowledge and a ton of ability. You could see he was the type of kid you could build a program around. He could do a lot of things. He had the athleticism, and I knew if we could develop his skills with the athleticism, he was going to be very good.”
DiRocco played sparingly as a freshman before becoming a starter as a sophomore. As a junior and a senior, he has blossomed into one of the top players in the Merrimack Valley Conference.
“He’s a gamer. He’s always bringing it. Especially this year,” Conners said. “He stepped up in every big game for us. Andover, that’s a career shot, Lawrence… He had huge games against teams we weren’t supposed to beat.”
DiRocco is also the first player in Conners’ tenure to go on to a college basketball career, as he recently committed to play his college ball at Salem State University next winter.
“That was one our goals for the program, to have kids go on to play in college, and Alex is the first one of my kids to accomplish that,” Conners said. “I’ve been really hard on him for four years because I saw what he was capable of. But he always lets you coach him. We’re kind of a perfect marriage because I like to play up tempo and to give guys free reign and have no conscience, and Alex has no conscience. He gets to shoot 8-10 three-pointers a game and that’s fine with me.”
On Tuesday, DiRocco fired off nine three-point shots and connected on four of them. He hit seven of his nine two-point field goals and went 4-for-5 from the free throw line, sparking Tewksbury to its highest point total of the season.
The win was Tewksbury’s 18th of the season, as the Redmen finish the regular season with an 18-4 record and will enter MIAA state tournament play next week as one of the top seeds in the Division 2 North Sectional bracket.
The 18 wins represent the most ever regular season victories in TMHS history, and DiRocco had plenty of help in nailing down this last one. Six different Redmen scored at least eight points in this contest and junior forwards Adam Gajjoui (16 points) and Justin Derrah (15 points) had outstanding games in spite of giving away several inches in height to the Wilmington front line.
Senior sixth man Henry Roberts also played a critical role, spelling Derrah when he encountered foul trouble, and scoring a career-high 10 points. Senior forward Joe Csokmay and junior guard Nate Tenaglia scored eight points each.
“We moved the ball extremely well,” Conners said. “Like Dracut the other night, the ball was just snapping around.”
The Redmen led by just six, at 40-34, at halftime, but a tactical move – switching from a man-to-man defense to a zone trap -- in the third quarter led to a 52-point second half and a 29-point victory for TMHS.
“We changed defenses and it broke the game open,” Conners said. “We went to a zone trap, we turned them over and started getting into our pace and everybody was hitting shots. It was an avalanche in the fourth quarter.”
So Tewksbury now returns to the practice floor for the next week or so. The Redmen are likely to be selected as the third seed in the Division 2 North Sectional, behind Danvers and Arlington. TMHS will probably play its first post-season game next Wednesday or Thursday, against the winner of a play-in game that will take place on Monday or Tuesday.
The MIAA seeding meetings are scheduled for this Saturday.
“I’m glad we’ll have a week to get back into the gym,” Conners said. “With the weather, we’ve only practiced three times in February. The Division 2 field is very tough this year, so we need to get back into the gym.”
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