It could have been worse.
Last year, when Tewksbury and Central Catholic met in early December, the Red Raiders rolled to a 42-point victory. That 71-29 loss sent Tewksbury into an early-season tailspin.
On Monday night, Tewksbury High could again muster only 29 points against the Red Raiders, but this time the Redmen held Central to a more respectable 48 points, and walked away with their heads held high.
"We worked hard," said TMHS coach Mark Bradley. "Based on what I saw I think we've got a lot of things to look forward to, and I think we have to clean up a lot of things offensively. But our zone defense we worked on slowed them down. I'm happy with the way the girls worked."
Tewksbury seemed to have a case of the opening day jitters early on, turning the ball over several times in the first period and falling behind, 17-3 after one period. But the Redmen got moving in the right direction in the second period and kept things a bit closer, trailing 31-11 at halftime.
In the second half, the TMHS girls dug in on defense and held their own against the highly-touted Red Raiders, who feature several returners from last year's 18-2, MVC runner-up squad. Tewksbury hung within three points of Central in the third quarter, losing that period by a 10-7 margin.
In the fourth period, the scrappy Redmen outscored Central 11-7, giving them an 18-17 advantage over the last two periods combined.
"I'm happy with the second half," Bradley said. "In the first half I think we hurt ourselves. But in the second half, we started getting some good looks and we worked hard defensively. I think we made things difficult for them, so that's a glimpse of what we can do."
Junior guard Nicole Chaet led all Tewksbury scorers with 11 points while sophomore guard Sarah Semenza added five. Junior forward Sam Laferriere had four points while Amanda Cossar, Shannon Semenza and Chelsee Porcaro had three each. Porcaro also led Tewksbury in rebounding.
Tewksbury was playing without the services of senior guard Sheri Liggiero, who is out for two weeks with a sprained ankle. Sara Semenza was also coming off an ankle injury but was able to play.
All things considered, Bradley gave his team high marks for their first game effort.
"I think we've got a lot of things to look forward to," he said. "I think we have to get a little healthier and I think we have some things we need to clean up offensively. But the girls kept on fighting. We limited Central Catholic to 48 points. That's not that bad."
Tewksbury opens its Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 schedule with a home game against rival Dracut on Friday night.
"It's a big game for us," Bradley said. "We've got three days to get healthy and get prepared for them."