TEWKSBURY — Sooner hopefully than later, the Basketball Gods will side with the Tewksbury Memorial High School boys’ basketball team.
A few weeks ago, the Redmen were defeated with an overtime buzzer-beating three-pointer in a loss to Methuen. On Friday night, the Redmen jumped out to an impressive 17-3 lead, but that vanished over the next three quarters.
Tewksbury was able to fight back and trailed by a point with eight seconds left but a missed buzzer-beating three-point attempt from the left hand corner nullified a Tewksbury win as the defending Division 3 North Sectional Champions walked off Romano Memorial Gymnasium with a come from behind 65-62 victory.
The Redmen fell to 1-8 on the season, and although frustrated, head coach Tom Bradley hasn’t wavered one bit since day one, believing that this team can certainly cause some damage in the second half.
"We're getting better and our first MVC victory is coming," said Tewksbury head coach Tom Bradley. "The kids are competing in practice but learning how to win is hard. Winning in this league is very hard. It's a brutal league. We are not a one win team. I think we are a four or five win team in any other league except the MVC, so you got to buckle up because it ain't getting any easier.”
Tewksbury stormed out to an 8-2 lead as Richie Markwarth (15 points, 12 rebounds) and Ryne Rametta (three-pointer) connected on field goals, while, Brady Eagen and Kalu Olu (23 points) combined for three free throws.
The Redmen then extended that lead to 17-3 as Eagen started the 9-1 run on a drive and free throw on the three-point play, while Markwarth added a put back and Olu converted back-to-back buckets, the first on a great spin move on a drive, and the second off an inbound pass.
Suddenly the Redmen — who did close to the same thing the previous game against Billerica — had 17-3 lead over the defending D3 sectional champions.
"We have been trying to preach to these guys communication," said Dracut head coach Brian Myers. "I didn't call a timeout (in the first six minutes of the game) because I wanted them to work through it. We went to the bench early on and those guys came through and gave us a lift. We cut the lead down to ten. We knew that we were capable of playing better, but we just had to ride out the storm. But a credit to Tewksbury. They are much improved and (their coaches) have them playing over there. They are defending well and doing all of the right things, so it was pretty tough to come out of here with a win."
Tewksbury closed out the quarter up by 10 at 21-11 and extended it to 12, before the Middies went on a 12-2 run, go cut the deficit to two points at 30-28, before the half ended with Tewksbury ahead at 37-34..
“We have been (attacking the basket more),” said Bradley. “They allow you to go downhill. They are a scrappy team on defense. They are gambling a lot when they allow you to go downhill like that. We just need to finish games. The last few games we have been absolutely awesome in the first quarter (vs Lowell, Billerica and Methuen).
“It just seems like after playing so well in the first quarter, we’ll make one or turnovers and it just spirals from there but then they battle back and that’s the resiliency of this group. I’m rooting for them.”
The teams went back-and-forth over the first few minutes of the third quarter, before Dracut’s Farai Zuvaradoka drained a three-pointer, followed by a steal and bucket which was part of a 12-0 run, giving Dracut a seven point lead after three.
The game was slowed down quite a bit in the fourth quarter with a lot of fouls, whistles and free throws. The Redmen finished just 7-for-13 from the charity stripe in the final eight minutes, including four in row with 50 seconds of one another. Thomas Bradley and Olu combined to drain four straight, cutting it to a one-point game with 4:35 left. Both teams exchanged one free throw (and one miss) before Dracut sophomore sensation Aiden Torres converted on a runner in the lane coming with 1:52 left.
“(Torres is) an outstanding player,” said Bradley. “He’s a very skilled and just excellent player. That’s why we ended up going to zone (defense) in the second half because he’s such a hard guy to cover. He’s a special player. They are a tough, scrappy team. They don’t have much height, but they are fast with their hands. But we’ll have another shot at them.”
Down three with 1:52 left, Markwarth scored from underneath with 46 seconds left before Dracut made both freebies with 24 seconds left to push the lead back to three.
The Redmen got the ball back with 16.2 seconds left after a defensive block by Markwarth, but Tewksbury turned the ball over giving the Middies the ball back with 9.3 seconds left.
A second later, Tewksbury fouled and Dracut then sealed it by making two free throws. Tewksbury did have a last second chance, but a three-pointer missed.
Olu led the way with 23 points with Markwarth second with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Eagen was next with 9 points.
“Kalu is coming along. I think he ended up with 23 points tonight so he’s had 23, 10, 16 and 17 in his last four games so he is certainly coming along. He is starting to gain a lot of confidence and he wants to be really good,” said Bradley.
“Once they get that win in the MVC, and it’s coming soon, real soon and it could be against Lawrence, it could be against Central Catholic — we will match up against anybody and we will play anybody. We just have those two minute spans where we turn the ball over so if we can just clean that up, we’ll be there,” said Bradley.
Torres led all of the players with 25 total points, which came after scoring 32 against Haverhill.
“He’s an outstanding player. He’s a very skilled and just excellent player. That’s why we ended up going to zone (defense) in the second half because he’s such a hard guy to cover. He’s a special player. They are a tough, scrappy team. They don’t have much height, but they are fast with their hands. But we’ll have another shot at them,” said Bradley.
On Tuesday, the Redmen fell to 1-9, after playing terrific for three quarters before falling to a superior Lawrence team, 80-54. Mike Kelly led the way with 17, all in the second half, while, Olu had 12, Markwarth had 10 and Shane Aylward chipped in with seven.
“We played some really good basketball for 24 minutes, but you have to do it for 32,” said Bradley. “You have to be perfect for all 32 minutes in MVC games and especially against large school teams. We did a lot of good things tonight and we will build on them.
“We have an opportunity (Wednesday night) against Malden in a redemption game from a loss earlier in the season. I fully expect we’ll get that done because these kids are resilient.”
Tewksbury faced Malden with results not known as of presstime, then host Central Catholic on Friday, before going to Chelmsford on Sunday for a make-up game starting at noon, before coming home Tuesday to face Haverhill.