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Redmen Run Past Haverhill, 75-51

Jan 26, 2016 11:26PM ● By Rick Spencer

Senior guard Ryan Briggs (5) and the TMHS Redmen flew past Haverhill, 75-51.

Newton’s first Law of Motion claims that objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and Sir Isaac would have been proud of the Tewksbury High boys basketball team Tuesday night.

Senior guard Nate Tenaglia led all scorers with 32 points as the Redmen ran all over visiting Haverhill High, fast-breaking  their way to a 75-51 victory that should go a long way toward restoring order in the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 standings.

TMHS head coach Phil Conners threw at least a half dozen different defensive looks at Haverhill, and pressured the Hillies into committing 18 turnovers, which is exactly what Tenaglia and the Redmen needed to break out of their recent two-game mini-slump.

“We’ve been working on defense all week in practice,” Tenaglia said. “Coach has been telling us to get up in ‘em and play D. We were getting stops so we could get out in transition. We haven’t been getting out in transition enough lately. It’s been hurting our offense because that’s what we do best. We get out in transition and hit threes.”

“I thought we were more intelligent defensively tonight,” Conners agreed. “Our pressure worked well. We threw a lot of different looks at them and it created some turnovers.  I thought we did a good job rotating after the initial trap and that’s what broke the game open.”

Only a sub-par shooting performance on the part of the Redmen kept Haverhill in this contest for most of the first half. But Tewksbury tossed in five unanswered points in the final 22 seconds of the second quarter to push its half-time lead to 34-23 and serve notice that there would be no repeat performances of last Friday night’s upset loss to Chelmsford. Tenaglia hit a three-pointer with 22 seconds to play, and senior forward Justin Derrah stole the ball just after Haverhill inbounded it, dishing off to senior guard Ryan Briggs for an uncontested lay-up at the buzzer to push the TMHS lead to 11 at the break.

“That’s what we’ve been talking about,” Conners said.  “The steal at the end of the first half by Justin was big. That’s what we coach them to do, and he did it today and the result was a great finish to the first half.”

The Redmen built on that momentum in the third quarter, outscoring Haverhill 25-14 in the period, thanks to some more ball-hawking defense that led to multiple fast-break baskets. Tewksbury also got hot from behind the three-point line in the third, as Tenaglia connected on four three-pointers, Briggs hit two and Derrah swooshed one. A 12-0 run (four straight three-pointers) extended Tewksbury’s lead to 22 points at 54-32 with 2:27 left in the third, and the Redmen had their ninth win of the season in the bag.

"That’s the way I envisioned us, as a fast break team that snaps the ball around to the open guy and takes fast break threes," Conners said. "If we do that we’re a better team. We want to play fast. We want to play up tempo basketball. You get some stops, you get up-tempo, you get some steals...Now it’s up and down, up and down. That’s how we want to play."

Tenaglia, who eclipsed the 30-point mark for the fourth time this season, scored Tewksbury’s first nine points in the fourth quarter, pushing the lead to 29 points at 68-39 with six minutes to play, and the TMHS starters retired to the bench for the rest of the game.

With at least 11 games left on the schedule Tenaglia has now scored 297 points (an average of 24.75 points per game) during the 2015-2106 season.  His current career point total of 1090 is good for third place on the TMHS all-time career scoring list. The 32-point outburst also ended a three-game streak during which Tenaglia failed to break 20 points (his only three games under 20 this season), averaging a mere mortal 17 points per game.

Tenaglia pointed to the team’s defensive effort against Haverhill as the primary reason for his lofty point total.

“When we get stops like that and get out in transition I usually get a lot of good looks,” Tenaglia said. “It’s a little bit harder in a set offense because the defense is usually prepared for me. But when we’re getting out in transition I get more of an open shot, I get a quicker release. It’s just easier.”

Briggs finished with 14 points for Tewksbury, while Derrah had 13 and senior guard Devan Bere added six.  Senior forward Adam Gajjaoui had five, senior forward Sean Moose tossed in three and senior forward Bobby Piccolo added two.

The win improves Tewksbury’s record to 9-3 overall, 6-3 in Merrimack Valley Conference play.  More importantly, it kept the Redmen two games ahead of second-place Billerica in the MVC Division 2 standings, as the Indians knocked off Dracut 64-49 on Tuesday to improve to 4-4 in league play.

“We’re definitely feeling better (after the win),” Tenaglia said. “After two losses, to come back and get a 25-point win, it feels a lot better. Now we just gotta keep it going against North Andover.”

The Redmen host North Andover in another important MVC game Friday night. The Scarlet Knights are 4-8 overall and 3-6 in the MVC, but they proved they are capable of beating any team in the league when they upset Lowell, 56-52, last Friday night.


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