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Redmen Shake Off The Rust, Blow Out Tyngsboro 61-31

Feb 19, 2016 11:21PM ● By Rick Spencer

Nate Tenaglia (4) returned to the line-up to lead Tewksbury over Tyngsboro, 61-31.

If the goal for the Tewksbury High boys basketball team was to re-discover its team chemistry in time for the MIAA state tournament, Friday night’s 61-31 beat down of Tyngsboro High has to be considered a step in the right direction.

Senior captains Nate Tenaglia and Justin Derrah returned to the line-up after a five-game suspension and resumed their positions as the team’s leading scorers, only this time it was a little bit different. Derrah led all scorers with 15 points, and Tenaglia added 13, but senior guard Ryan Briggs (13) and sophomore guard Gio Ciampa (10) also scored in double figures, as nine different players saw significant playing time even before this game became a blow-out.

“I figured we’d come out a little rusty, with only one practice with everyone back in the fold,” said TMHS head coach Phil Conners after watching his team raise its overall record to 14-7. “I’m really excited about the way we shared the ball. We really hit our stride offensively in that third quarter. We (forced) a lot of turnovers with the press and got lay-ups for guys and I was happy with that.”

Defensively, it was, in many ways, Tewksbury’s best effort of the season. The Redmen held Tyngsboro to a season-low 31 points, including just two points in the first quarter and nine in the first half, while a rusty TMHS offense grinded its way to a 25-9 halftime lead.

“I thought we committed defensively the whole time,” Conners said. “I thought we did a really good job defending, making them go to their bad hands, staying in front of guys, making them shoot over us,  not getting back-doored, giving them pressure, never making them comfortable, never letting them get a good look. We’re always trying to say ‘don’t give ‘em a clean look, make it hard, make it hard,  make it hard.’ I thought we did a good job of that tonight.”

Tenaglia and Derrah certainly showed the effects of their two-week lay-off, as Derrah missed every shot he took in the first half, and Tenaglia went 0-for-6 from three-point territory, driving to the lane or getting to the free throw line for all nine of his first-half points.

But in the third quarter, everything started to click for the Redmen, who continued to put a ton of pressure on the Tyngsboro guards, creating six turnovers that led to five fast break baskets for TMHS. Briggs scored nine of his 13 points in that period, and Derrah caught fire with nine points of his own. Tenaglia, Derrah and Briggs all connected from beyond the three-point arc, and a 26-5 Tewksbury advantage in the period extended the lopsided lead to 51-14 entering the fourth quarter.

“We turned them over and got something on the other end a lot (in the third quarter),” Conners said. “We took some charges in the back end too, which was really good, and we got a couple over-the-backs. Those are the extra effort plays that we need, so I was happy with how we shared it in the third, for sure.”

Eight players ended up in the scoring column for Tewksbury, as Brian Nazaire had four points while Sean Moose, Adam Gajjaoui and Devan Bere had two each.

So with one more regular season game to play before tournament time, the Redmen will look to Friday’s win as a building block and hope to continue their momentum in Tuesday night’s regular season finale at Haverhill High. Because the team lost four out of its last seven games, that final game takes on added significance for Tewksbury, which needs a victory over Haverhill to lock up the eighth seed in the Division 2 North Sectional pairings, and earn the right to host an opening-round state tournament home game.

“It’s huge,” Conners said. “We lose our home game if we don’t beat Haverhill.”

If the Redmen can start their state tournament journey at home, Conners is optimistic that the team can pull it together in time to make a deep run.

“I think the rust will be off,” Conners said. “We’ve got one more game then a bunch of practices and then the real thing. This (the Tyngsboro game) was good. It’s been good for the last two practices. I think it’s been humbling for everyone and it’s been better. I definitely think it’s been better and it’s a blessing in disguise.

“We made our path harder, for sure,” Conners added. “Instead of being home twice, we lost a home game. If you’re the eight or nine seed you’ve got to play the one-seed (in the second round), so we made our path harder. But I think we can beat anyone in that bracket, at our best. We weren’t at our best, probably until the suspensions, chemistry-wise. We weren’t doing all the things you need to do to be a team. So my hope is that this fixes that, because I’d rather have the hard path with the good chemistry as opposed to the easier path with the bad chemistry.”


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