Short-Staffed Redmen Blow Out Dracut
Feb 10, 2016 11:28PM
By Rick Spencer
Ryan Briggs (File photo)
Sometimes less is more and such was the case Wednesday night for the Tewksbury High boys basketball team.
In spite of the fact that they were playing without their two best players, the Redmen posted one of their most impressive victories of the season and clinched at least a share of their third consecutive Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 championship with a 75-43 drubbing of Dracut High at home on Tony Romano Court.
Senior captains Nate Tenaglia and Justin Derrah were both sitting out the first game of a reported five-game disciplinary suspension, but sophomore guard Gio Ciampa and senior guard Ryan Briggs each stepped up and filled the gap in a big way. Ciampa tossed in 21 points and Briggs had 20, as the Redmen smothered Dracut with a high-pressure defensive effort and improved their record to 12-4 in the process.
The 32-point margin of victory was the team’s largest of the season, and the 43-point defensive effort represented Tewksbury’s second-lowest points-allowed total of the year.
“It was awesome,” said TMHS head coach Phil Conners afterward. “Even in the first half, we didn’t shoot well, but we did everything right. We played together, we were coachable. We didn’t hang our heads. We didn’t question authority. We took accountability. We did everything a high character team is supposed to do and the result comes out on the scoreboard.”
Even more remarkable was the fact that this lopsided victory came less than 24 hours after one of the low points of the season, a 75-68 loss to a Billerica team that the Redmen had beaten by 29 points back in December.
“I’m so proud of these kids the way they stepped up, without practice, after losing like that last night,” Conners said. “But I told them before the game, this is an opportunity. When I heard about the suspensions, I felt the hurt of what they did, but I felt excited for those other kids and I’m really excited for those kids.”
Tewksbury never trailed in this game, as Briggs tossed in nine first quarter points while Ciampa added seven to help stake TMHS to a 20-15 lead after one period. The Redmen lost their shooting touch for most of the second quarter but a strong defensive effort and two big three-pointers from Ciampa helped Tewksbury maintain a 31-25 half time lead.
Briggs tossed in six more in the third period and senior forward Adam Gajjaoui added five as the Redmen pressured Dracut into numerous turnovers and extended their lead to 49-34 going into the fourth quarter.
Tewksbury refused to let up defensively in the fourth period, holding the Middies to just nine points in the quarter and shutting out the visitors for more than a five-minute stretch. Senior forward Sean Moose came alive in the fourth, scoring five of his career-high nine points, and the Redmen ran away with it.
Ciampa’s 21 point total and Briggs' 20 both represented the second highest scoring nights of each players’ career. For both Redmen, it was just a matter of stepping up and filling the void left by the loss of the team’s two leading scorers.
“We just got together (before the game) and talked about how we had to change the way we went into the game by moving the ball more,” Briggs said. “Obviously our talent level was lower without them, but we just had to keep moving the ball and playing together, and that’s what we did and we ended up blowing them out.”
“I think it just shows we can come together as a team and do anything we put our minds to,” Ciampa offered. “We came into this game knowing we were short players, but we went out there and played as a team, played together. We wanted to win.
“Two of our best scorers were gone,” Ciampa added. “We all had to step up in some way. We all scored, we all contributed. And we just played as a team.”
Conners was thrilled with the effort he saw from both Ciampa and Briggs.
“Gio got to play free and loose today,” Conners said. “I thought he did a good job with his floor game because he’s normally just a shooter. He put the ball to the floor today and made some nice plays. I thought he was great defensively. For a sophomore he took on a real leadership role.”
“Ryan was awesome, beginning to end,” Conners added. “He took their best guy (defensively) and did a great job on him. He fought through foul trouble, ran our sets efficiently without practice and with guys in different spots. He was a real leader.”
Gajjaoui finished with 13 points, while senior guard Colby Nowak added a career-high eight points. Senior forward Bobby Piccolo and senior guard Devan Bere had two each.
So the Redmen go right back at it with a non-league game in Malden on Thursday night, and Conners hopes his under-manned team can build on the Dracut victory.
"I don’t want to get too excited,” Conners said. “It’s one game. But the way we did it is what excites me. The ball movement, the sharing. No one cared about their points, no one cared about their stats. No one thought about themselves before the team, and that’s the result. Nine guys played. Guys were on the floor, we won loose balls, guys boxed out. We ran sets when we were supposed to. Guys were coachable and did the things that good people do.”