By Kevin Eickman
Going into this season, Milford coach B.J. Joseph knew that this season was going to be a difficult one. After beginning the season with three consecutive road losses, Joseph was hoping that some home cooking would help get the Bucs going.
Milford once again fought the good fight and once again came up short in a Thursday night’s battle against Henlopen North rival, Sussex Central. After starting the second half trailing 25-26, Milford began to assert themselves. Providing solid defense along with good scoring, Milford slowly began to take control of the contest. With a solid third quarter, Milford drew past the Golden Knights and found themselves enjoying a 48-42 advantage as the fourth quarter began.
Sussex Central battled feverishly to get themselves back into the game but each time they threatened to take the lead Milford had an answer. Sophomore Jason Parker who scored a game high 21 points, always seemed to have an answer. Sophomore Shakur Manzo, who finished the game with 12 points of his own, seemed to be everywhere. Providing a swarming defensive presence and ensuring that Milford capitalized on the turnovers they forced, it looked like an inevitability that the Bucs would walk away with their first victory of the season.
Everything seemed to go wrong as the game began to near its conclusion. While Milford maintained the lead, Parker was forced to the bench do to injury with 1:30 left. Milford had been struggling on the boards and the loss of Parker hurt them considerably. Even with the loss of Parker, Milford still would have their chances. With time winding down, Milford was unable to convert key free-throws even while they enjoyed a 61-57 advantage with time winding down.
Central took advantage of the opportunity presented to them. With a key three pointer, Central was down by just one point with just 15 seconds left in the game. Once again, Milford failed to convert their foul shots and Central was headed down the court with victory on their mind. They drove the court and sure enough put in the basket that gave them a 62-61 advantage with just 4 seconds left in the game.
More to the point, there was 4.0 seconds left in the game. This was after a time keeping gaff, that left Milford with just 2.6 seconds left on the clock. This occurred as time kept on running off the clock, even after Milford had called a time out. After a conference between officials, it was determined that the clock should be set to 4.0 seconds.
Milford threw the ball to midcourt and worked a pass under the basket for an easy layup. As Milford went up for the layup, they where fouled to the ground and where headed to the foul line with a chance to win the game. There was just one small problem, there was still 2.0 seconds remaining in the game. It was obvious that the clock was not started when the in-bounds pass was complete, the question was, just how much time was there left in the game. Nobody knew, and absent any definitive evidence, the officials where left no other choice but to go back to 4.0 seconds, and start the play again.
Milford failed to get off a shot, and just like that they where 0-4 and wondering what else could go wrong. “That is a very tough game to lose, you hate to see a game decided in such a fashion,” said Coach Joseph. “It was obvious we got the first shot off in time, but because of the clock issue there was nothing that could be done.” While the clock was one problem, Joseph also thought there was some things Milford could have done to keep themselves out of that situation “If we make our foul shots at the end of the game, none of this is an issue,” he stated. “We also gave them a look at an open three pointer and an easy two points that enabled them to go ahead.”
The Buccaneers find themselves looking at a season that can get away from them, but Joseph believes his team will get better. “We are going to work harder and we are going to win some basketball games. There is no doubt about that.” he said. Milford will battle Cape Henlopen Tuesday night at home, game time is 6:15 pm.