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Tenaglia, Ciampa Lead Redmen Past Billerica, 84-55

Dec 22, 2015 11:33PM ● By Rick Spencer

Nate Tenaglia (4) flies past the Billerica defense on his way to a 23-point night in Tewksbury's 84-55 win over the Indians.

For most high school basketball coaches, the first few weeks of a new season are filled with sleepless nights and anxious moments as the starting line-up works itself out and the team finds its personality.

Not so for Tewksbury High boys basketball coach Phil Conners, who has his TMHS Redmen clicking on all cylinders just three games into the 2015-2016 season.

Senior super star Nate Tenaglia led all scorers with 23 points and super sophomore Giovanni Ciampa scored a career-high 22 as Conners’ crew improved its record to 3-0 with a resounding, 84-55 thumping of Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 rival Billerica High on Tuesday night at Tony Romano Court.

Senior forward Justin Derrah added 12 points while putting the clamps on Billerica’s 6-5 senior forward Josh Bradanese, and 11 different Redmen got into the scoring column in the team’s most impressive all-around effort of the young season.

“From day one everyone said ‘Aww, you think your better this year?’ I said ‘no, I know we're better.’ We’re a  better team,” Conners said. “There’s more chemistry, we share the ball better and we defend better. Rebounding is still the one thing we have to work on. That’s gonna catch us and bite as at some point. But other than that, we do everything better this year.”

Billerica was in no position to argue with that claim Tuesday night, as the Redmen jumped out to a 17-11 first quarter lead on the strength of three consecutive three-pointers from Ciampa, who went 6-for-13 from beyond the arc against the visiting Indians. Billerica’s early strategy was clearly to limit the damage that Tenaglia would do to them, as Tewksbury’s senior captain came into the contest averaging 27.5 points per game. But every time the Indian defense collapsed on Tenaglia, the Redmen whipped the ball around the perimeter and found Ciampa, who bested last Friday’s career-high 16-point effort against Lawrence with a new career-best (22) on Tuesday.

Conners couldn’t be happier with his new-found offensive weapon.

“I have to be honest, he’s surprised the hell out of me this year,” said Conners of Ciampa.”At the end of last year I thought he’d be a great player by his junior or senior year. But he’s made a massive jump. He lived with Nate in the gym this summer, never put the ball down and he’s a great shooter. He’s become such a weapon. It’s nice to watch.”

 “I just worked every day, shot the ball every day this summer and it’s just come together for me,” said Ciampa, who wasn’t even on the TMHS varsity roster a year ago. “Every day me and Nate were in the gym, every morning. He’s taught me everything. I wasn’t matured as a player, but throughout the summer he helped me mature. He got me tougher mentally and physically.”

Tenaglia is also happy to see his understudy take on a leading role so quickly.

“It’s a big help having him shooting threes like that.” Tenaglia said. “When I’m driving and they’re  doubling, he’s just sitting in the corner hitting threes. He’s only a sophomore but he plays like a senior.”

Once Ciampa started keeping the Billerica defense honest, Tenaglia exploded for 13 second quarter points and pushed the Tewksbury lead to 40-24 at the half. Tenaglia, who has now eclipsed the 20-point mark in each of his first three games, got a lot of support from the Tewksbury bench, as starters Adam Gajjaoui, Ryan Briggs and Derrah all sat down with two fouls halfway through the period.

But senior forward Sean Moose came off the bench and tossed in five points in the second period, while senior guards Colby Nowack and Brian Naziere  logged some key minutes and contributed some strong defense. Tewksbury closed out the second quarter with a 17-2 run to pretty much put the game away, leading 40-24 at half time.

“I thought the bench did a great job,” Conners said. “They came in when we had three important guys in foul trouble… I put in Moose, Colby and Brian and I thought they did a great job . Any time you can extend the lead with your bench in there, it’s awesome.”

Billerica battled back to within 12 points midway through the third quarter but senior guard Devan Bere swooshed a critical three-pointer, and Derrah followed that with a run of nine straight points that helped push the TMHS lead to 62-40 at the end of three quarters. Derrah also contributed five rebounds, five assists and two blocks, while holding Bradanese to just 11 points.

“Justin had a great game,” Conners said. “He played a guy (Bradanese) who has been offered a Division 2 scholarship (to the University of Philadelphia). But I like my guy better tonight. I’m obviously biased, but Justin showed it tonight.”

Gajjaoui finished with seven points while Briggs added three. Moose finished with five points, Bere and junior guard Tyler Ward added three each and Nowak, Nazaire and senior forward Bobby Piccolo scored two each. Eleven different Redmen worked their way into the scoring column.

“We used eight players early,” Conners said. “I have more confidence in my bench this year,  100 percent.”

At 3-0 on the young season, Conners is sleeping well so far.

“I’m really happy so far,” Conners said. I loved the way we shared the ball and we really paid attention to detail and defended well tonight.  I thought we put the game away defensively.”

Conners won’t be getting too much rest, however, as his Redmen are right back at it tonight with a non-league home game against Malden. Game time is 7:00 p.m.

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