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Ice Cold Redmen Get Burned By Central, 58-43

Jan 05, 2016 11:19PM ● By Rick Spencer

Senior guard Nate Tenaglia led all scorers with 23 points but Tewksbury lost to Central Catholic, 58-43.

The weather outside of Central Catholic High School was a frightful 18 degrees on Tuesday night, but unfortunately for the Tewksbury High basketball team, things were even colder inside the Central gymnasium.

The previously unbeaten Redmen picked an inopportune time to come up with their worst shooting night of the season, as TMHS missed its first 18 field goal attempts and never recovered from its most abysmal start in recent memory, suffering its first loss of the year, 58-43, to Central Catholic.

The game had been billed as a monumental early season showdown between two of the Merrimack Valley Conference’s top teams, as the Redmen entered the game 6-0 and ranked 11th in the latest ESPN Boston poll, one notch ahead of the 5-1 Raiders, who were ranked 12th. But thanks to Tewksbury’s off-target shooting effort, the showdown never materialized.

“We just didn’t make any shots,” lamented TMHS head coach Phil Conners afterward. “We’re based heavily on the three point shot. But tonight we went 0-for-whatever and we missed a ton of free throws, too.”

The Redmen misfired on everything they threw at the hoop in the first quarter, shooting 0-for-15 from the floor and just 3-for-6 from the free throw line. Central, which enjoyed an enormous height advantage over Tewksbury, cleaned up on the defensive boards and killed the Redmen in transition. Central led 14-1 halfway through the first period, and 16-3 going into the second quarter. Tewksbury hit its first field goal of the game with 5:58 to play in the second quarter and finished the first half hitting just  2-of-26 from the field, for a disheartening 7.69 shooting percentage.

“I don’t know what it is, if it’s (because) we’ve never ever beaten them or what,” Conners said. “The pressure…Honestly, we played scared.”

CCHS head coach Rick Nault credited his team’s defensive effort for much of Tewksbury’s offensive woes.

“Defense is our bread and butter. Our guards can get up and challenge people and I thought we did that, especially in the first quarter,”  Nault said. “We had the athleticism on the floor to challenge a lot of people. We work on that every day.”

Making matters worse for Tewksbury was a highlight reel night contributed by CCHS sophomore superstar Tannahj Pettway, who led Central with 15 points in the first half and 22 in the game. Pettway scored nine points in the first quarter and six more in the second period as the Raiders built a 26-10 halftime lead.

“A lot of his offense was off our terrible offense,” Conners said of Pettway. “He gets in transition and he’s unstoppable. Tannahj played great.”

Nault agreed.  “He (Pettway) is just so gifted with the basketball, especially on the open floor,” Nault said. “His ability to make plays, get to the rim and find his teammates and make other players better. He’s a special player, especially for a kid so young.”

Tewksbury was able to right the ship somewhat in the second half and play the Raiders even over the final two periods. But the Redmen were unable to cut the lead down below 15 points at any point after the intermission, and CCHS improved its record to 6-1 while Tewksbury fell to 6-1.

TMHS senior guard Nate Tenaglia started to find the range in the second half and ended up leading all scorers with 23 points in the game. Tenaglia now has 962 career points, and is in position to eclipse the 1000 point mark within the next week. He would need 38 more points, which he could possibly accomplish either on the road against Dracut this coming Friday night, or at home against Andover next Tuesday . Senior forward Justin Derrah shook off an unproductive first half and finished with 12 points in the game, while senior forward Adam Gajjaoui added six and senior guard Ryan Briggs had two.

For Central, the win was easily the team’s biggest victory of the season so far, according to Nault.

“It was a statement game for us, there’s no question about that,” Nault said. “We talked about it. They were Number 10 in the state and undefeated. They’re a very, very good team and we were focused on that.”

But for Conners and the Redmen, it was the continuation of a two week stretch of less-than-perfect performances that included two narrow victories on their way to winning the championship of the Larry McGrath Knights of Columbus holiday basketball tournament in Wilmington last week.

“I could feel it coming after we had a terrible Christmas tournament,” Conners said. “We haven’t been playing well in two weeks. Our practices haven’t gone well. We’ve gotta look within ourselves. The thing I had said after that Christmas tournament – that should (have been) our lesson. Hopefully now the attention is there. We gotta tighten up practice for sure.

“Chemistry counts,” Conners added. “Chemistry is huge and we don’t have it right now. We need to work on it.”

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