_ to end a nearly three-year long home losing streak was something special, but what happened Tuesday night at the Tewksbury High gymnasium may go down is history as a the pivotal game in first-year coach Phil Conners' efforts to turn the _program into a winner.
_scored a career-high 21 points and nailed a long-range three-pointer with just 10 seconds left in the game to give the Redmen their biggest win of the season, 53-52 over rival Wilmington High Tuesday night. The victory, almost unthinkably, puts the Redmen in solid shape to qualify for the MIAA Division 2 state tournament for the first time since 2007.
"It's a huge win, Division 2 (state tournament) wise," said Conners after watching his team rally back from a five-point deficit with three minutes to play. "We control our own destiny now. We don't have to pull off a miracle now."
Tewksbury must finish with a .500 record (or better) against all of its MIAA Division 2 and 3 opponents in order to qualify for state tournament play, and the Redmen came into Tuesday's game with a 2-3 record against tournament qualifying opponents, including a 62-52 loss to Wilmington in December.
"This was the big one, this was definitely the big one," Lumbard said. "This was the game we wanted because now we control our own destiny. All I know is if we win our next two games, we're in."
The Redmen didn't come out looking like they were ready to earn their biggest victory of the year, shooting poorly in the first quarter and falling behind, 17-11 after one period. But the second quarter was a completely different story as Tewksbury went on an early, 7-0 run to pull within a point, and put the clamps on Wilmington defensively, taking a 29-25 lead into the locker room at halftime. Lumbard had 10 of his 21 points in the first half while sophomore guard Kevin Dick had eight and _senior forward Chris Crawford provided a spark off the bench with five.
Tewksbury struggled offensively in the third quarter, but a buzzer beater from Lumbard made it 40-38 after three. Wilmington appeared to have taken control in the fourth quarter, pulling ahead to a 48-43 lead halfway through the period, but the Redmen stiffened their resolve and held the Wildcats to just four points in the last four minutes of the game.
Lumbard and senior guard Mike Doucette both hit critical three-pointers in the final three minutes of the game, but the Redmen still trailed by two, 52-50, when they got the ball back with 40 seconds to play. A play designed to get Lumbard a three-point shot from the corner didn't work out, but the TMHS captain freelanced his way to the top of the key and drained the game-winning three-pointer with just 10 seconds to play.
Crawford and Dick combined to take the ball away from Wilmington on its final possession, and the Redmen had their third victory in their last four games.
"We kept battling," Conners said. "Winning is a learning thing. You have to learn to win and it takes guys stepping up like (Lumbard) did."
Lumbard, who was held to a season-low three points against Methuen last Friday, hit five of his eight three-point attempts against Wilmington. Dick also had a strong shooting night, hitting six-of-eight from the field and scoring 12 points.
Senior guard Anthony Chiccarelli scored six points and did a solid defensive job against Wilmington's leading scorer, Tim McCarthy, holding McCarthy to 14 points. Crawford had five points, Doucette added four and Sean Foley added three.
In addition to boosting Tewksbury's state tournament aspirations, the victory marked the first time that any member of the 2011-2012 TMHS boys basketball team had ever won a game against Wilmington.
"I don't know when the last time was (that Tewksbury beat Wilmington)," Lumbard said. "Not since I've been here. But we're not gonna be satisfied until we make the states. This win is great. We'll enjoy it, but tomorrow we're gonna work hard in practice and go get Billerica on Friday."
The Redmen now stand at 5-7 overall, 3-4 in Merrimack Valley Conference action. TMHS can also qualify for the state tournament by finishing first or second in the MVC Division 2 standings, as well, and a win over MVC Division 2 rival Billerica would help Tewksbury keep pace with Division 2 front-runner Methuen. Game time is 7:30 p.m. at the TMHS gym.
GIRLS BASKETBALL TEAM FALLS AT LOWELL, 38-15
The Tewksbury High girls basketball team put together a spirited defensive effort against Lowell High Tuesday night, but turnovers plagued the TMHS offensive effort and the Redmen came upon the short end of a 38-25 score.
"We played good defensively, we just didn't make some of the shots we should have made," _. "And when you commit 27 turnovers it's tough to win a basketball game."
Junior forward Nicole Chaet scored 12 points to lead Tewksbury, while sophomore guard Sara Semenza added six and sophomore center Chelsee Porcaro had three.
Tewksbury now stands at 2-7 overall, 2-5 in the Merrimack Valley Conference. The Redmen visit Lawrence Friday night.