It wasn't Phil Conners' first time in the winner's circle, _so forgive the Tewksbury High's new boys basketball coach_ if he wasn't jumping up and down and giving out high fives after his TMHS Redmen traveled to Dracut and came home with a 63-59 win Friday night.
"It feels good, but it's only one win," said Conners, who coached Lowell High to a 12-7 record two years ago before coming to Tewksbury. "And winning programs don't celebrate single victories. It's a start, but I'm not excited. It's what I expected us to do if we worked hard in practice."
Senior guards Bobby Lombard and Mike Doucette scored 18 points each to lead the Redmen to their first win of the year and Conners' first win as Tewksbury's head coach. The Redmen overcame a four-point halftime deficit and outscored Dracut, 36-28, over the final two periods.
Doucette scored 12 of his 18 points from three-point range, and Lombard tossed in three shots from behind the arc. Senior forward Sean Foley contributed 14 points, including a pair of three-pointers, as the Redmen shot an impressive 50 percent (9-for-18) from three-point range.
"We let the ball go tonight and we hit a lot of threes," Conners said. "They were all pretty much good shots, stuff that offensively we've been working for."
The only thing that kept the Redmen from earning a double-digit victory was a run of foul trouble in the second half. Lombard and sophomore guard Kevin Dick each picked up their fourth fouls in the early stages of the fourth quarter, and Conners had to go to his bench. But junior guard Chris Crawford and senior forward Chris Fandel (three points) came in and preserved the Tewksbury lead.
"Crawford and Fandel did a great job coming off the bench," Conners said. "Not only did they hold the lead but they pushed it ahead a little."
Dracut made a desperate run in the final two minutes and cut it to a two-possession game, but Lombard hit four important free throws down the stretch to nail down the win.
Lombard, who was one of the team's top players as a sophomore, sat out all of his junior season with a back injury, but has returned to his earlier form in his first two games as a senior. Lombard is averaging 13.5 points per game so far.
"He was huge for us," Conners said of Lombard. "He's a great shooter and he's our best ball-handler. He's an all-around offensive skilled player. He's the type of player I want all our kids to be."
Doucette, who is averaging 12 points per game so far, was instrumental in keeping the Redmen close in the first half, scoring 11 of his 18 points in the first two periods.
"He's a shooter," Conners said of Doucettte. "He knocked down a bunch of threes early."
Conners alao had high praise for the defensive play of senior guard Anthony Chiccarelli, who returned to the line-up after missing the opener with an injury.
"Chiccarelli is the real key to our defense," Conners said. "When he came out (with foul trouble) our defense just fell apart."
Chiccarelli scored five points and Dick added two. Tewksbury shot 11-for-24 on two-point field goals and hit 14-of-22 free throws.
In the end, though, everything came together for the Redmen, who evened their overall record at 1-1 in the Merrimack Valley Conference. And Conners hopes the first win will be a confidence booster for his Redmen, who host Danvers on Sunday afternoon.
"I think it's good for them to get a game under their belt and learn how to close out a game," Conners said. "It's good to get one, but I want them to expect more."
TEWKSBURY GIRLS LOSE, 48-40
_The TMHS girls basketball team_ saw its record fall to 0-2 after some sloppy shooting cost the Redmen a 48-40 loss to Dracut at home on Friday night.
Sophomore guard Shannon Semenza led TMHS with a career high 13 points, hitting six-of-nine shots from the field. But the rest of the Redmen couldn't find the range often enough.
"We had multiple opportunities that we couldn't convert on," said TMHS coach Mark Bradley afterward. "It was like we had something working against up. We missed so many shots. That happens some nights. It's just frustrating when it happens to a young team with so much ability. I would say we missed maybe 14 or 15 lay-ups."
Tewksbury trailed by two after one quarter, and by four at halftime, 18-14. The Redmen pulled to within two with six minutes left in the third period when sophomore guard Sara Semenza (seven points) scored off an offensive rebound. But Dracut's senior backcourt tandem of Jamy Marquez (19 points) and Rachel Ledbetter (13 points) caught fire in the second half and extended the Middies' lead to 39-28 with 2:47 to play in the game.
Tewksbury rallied and cut the lead to four points with just under 2:00 to play, but Dracut went 7-for-10 from the free throw line in the final 90 seconds to seal the victory.
Junior guard Nicole Chaet had 11 points for Tewksbury, nine from the free throw line, while senior guard Katie Doherty added three and freshman forward Shannon Smith added two.
"It's frustrating." Bradley said. "I'm proud that we were down 10 with four minutes to go and we fought back to make it a two-possession game, but we had a chance to get it back.
"It's tough for them," he added. "Losing stinks. I feel their pain. But we told them it's up to them to fight back."
Tewksbury now has over a week to work on correcting Friday's mistakes. The Redmen will compete in the Melrose Christmas Tournament over the Christmas break.