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Your Tewksbury Today

Redmen Top Lawrence, 72-61, Improve to 2-0

Dec 19, 2015 12:23AM ● By Rick Spencer

Adam Gajjaoui (23) goes for the slam dunk on the fast break against Lawrence.

It’s far too early in the 2015-2016 basketball season to talk about league championships and state tournament titles, but if Friday night’s 72-61 win over Lawrence High is an indication of things to come, this could be a special season for the Tewksbury High boys basketball team.

Senior guard Nate Tenaglia led all scorers with 21 points and sophomore guard Giovanni Ciampa scored a career-high 16 as coach Phil Conners’ Redmen improved their record to 2-0 with an impressive win over a Lawrence High team that was three days removed from upsetting Division 1 powerhouse Central Catholic on Tuesday.

Senior forward Justin Derrah scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds and senior forward Adam Gajjaoui scored 12 points as the Redmen made their home opener a successful one.

But it was one particular stretch of play in the second quarter that gave the raucous crowd at Tony Romano Court an indication of what this team is capable of this year. The Redmen outscored a tall and talented Lawrence team 15-7 in building a 19-point lead in the first five minutes of the second quarter, and it was a wild 'n wooly stretch of one highlight reel moment after another that had the TMHS’ student section shaking the building with a continuous roar of approval.

First Tenaglia dangled at the top of the key and swished a jumper in the face of a fired-up Lawrence defender, then senior guard Ryan Briggs scored on a breakaway, then Derrah blocked two consecutive Lancer shots, then Gajjaoui dunked the ball on the fast break, then senior forward Sean Moose blocked a shot, then Derrah swooshed a three-pointer… And on it went.

“Guys were just making play after play after play, it was unbelievable,” Conners said. “The fans loved it. That was the best crowd we’ve had for a regular season game ever, and hopefully they’ll come back because that second quarter was just exciting basketball.”

Tewksbury’s momentum was derailed a bit in the third quarter when Gajjaoui picked up his third and fourth fouls inside of a minute and had to take a seat on the bench, leaving the Redmen at a decided disadvantage in the height department.

“When Adam got in foul trouble you saw a different team,” Conners sad. “That leaves Justin (Derrah) to defend by himself down there and it’s hard.  They (Lawrence) beat Central with all their size. We knew that was going to be the thing. We knew how physical and tough they are.”

Tewksbury’s lead dwindled down to seven points in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, but Conners re-inserted Gajjaoui and the Redmen took charge from there. An 11-0 run featuring five points from Derrah, a three-pointer from Gajjaoui and a traditional three-point play from Ciampa put the lead back up to 18 at 64-46 with six minutes to play, and the Redmen held on from there.

For Ciampa, who was on the junior varsity roster last year, his 16-point, five rebound effort marked two career bests. A 5-11, 165-pound sophomore, Ciampa played like a seasoned veteran Friday night.

“He (Ciampa) is an unbelievable shooter,” Conners said. “We do shooting drills every day and he‘s always one of our highest scorers. He hung around with Nate (Tenaglia) for eight months and when you do that you don’t leave the gym, and you can see it.”

Conners was also pleased with the play of Briggs, who scored seven points and had another strong defensive outing Friday night. No one is going to forget what Alex DiRocco and Joe Csokmay meant to this team last year any time soon, but the early-season play of Ciampa and Briggs has alleviated any worries about holes in the Tewksbury line-up.

“At the end of last season I was afraid we’d only have three guys this year, but by the start of this season I knew for sure that those guys had put in the work,” Conners said. “Ryan is super smart, a coaches’ son. He’s a helluva defender. He played great. He did everything right for us. And Gio can really shoot the ball and he’s a hell of an athlete on the fast break. I knew we had a solid five.”

So the first week of the season has gone as well as the Redmen could have ever expected, with impressive wins over Chelmsford and Lawrence. But the schedule doesn’t get any easier next week, with Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 powerhouse Billerica High visiting Romano Court on Tuesday night.  Malden High visits on Wednesday prior to a five-day break for the Christmas holiday. Both games start at 7:00 p.m.


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