It had all the makings of a great story. "New Tewksbury High boys basketball coach Phil Conners leads the Redmen to an opening night victory over his old Lowell High team, ending a three-year home winless streak in the process."
Alas, Tewksbury High basketball fans will have to wait another day to write that fairly tale, as reality set in at the Tewksbury High gym Tuesday evening and the visiting Red Raiders rolled to a 78-40 win over TMHS in the Merrimack Valley Conference opener for both teams.
"Their pressure just wore on us and wore on us and our guys aren't used to handling that pressure," Conners said after Lowell's full court press created multiple turnovers that resulted in a 38-18 halftime lead for the visitors. "They showed us we've got a long way to go."
Tewksbury kept things close for a while, trailing only 15-7 after one quarter. But the hot shooting Red Raiders caught fire in the second period and drained two three-pointers in the final minute to put some distance between themselves and the Redmen.
"I knew if they were hitting their shots we'd be in trouble," Conners said. "Those two threes right before the half really broke us."
Lowell also had a decided advantage in rebounding, scoring many of their baskets off second chance opportunities.
"We knew the rebounding would be a problem," Conners said. "That team's deep. That's a 15-5 or even a 16-4 Division 1 team. They'll challenge (for the league championship). They've got speed, they've got height, they can shoot. They've got everything."
Still, Conners did find a few things to be optimistic about. Senior guard Bobby Lombard, who missed all of last season with a back injury, led Tewksbury with nine points, and hit two three-pointers. Senior forward Sean Foley scored eight points and led the team in the hustle department. Sophomore guard Kevin Dick ran the point and scored seven points, while senior guard/forward Mike Doucette added six points.
"I did think the kids fought hard, but we've got a long way to go as far as offensive execution," Conners said. "There's no magic. It just comes down to hard work. We've gotta get better with our skills so we can go by guys when they're that far up the court."
Senior forward Chris Fandel contributed four points off the bench, as did junior Chris Crawford. Freshman guard Alex DiRocco added two points.
"We did some good things," Conners added. "But we've got a long way to go. One day I hope to compete with those teams, but skill-wise we gotta get a lot better."
The Redmen will hit the road on Friday and open up the Division 2 portion of their MVC schedule at Dracut.
"It's a big game," Conners said. "We hope to be much more competitive in Division 2 this year."