After starting 0-6, Bucs Win Four Straight.
By Kevin Eickman
Back on December 13 the Milford boys basketball team suffered a heartbreaking 62-61 defeat at the hands of Sussex Central. In that game, Milford blew a double digit lead, failing to make key foul shots when they needed them most. The lost put them at 0-4 and the season was beginning to take on a look of failure. Two losses later and with a record of 0-6, Milford had a decision to make; they could give up, or man up. Luckily for the Bucs they chose the later.
After securing their first victory of the season at the Governor’s challenge, held at the Wicomico County Civic Center, Milford headed back to Delaware to try and get their season back on track. On January 4, Milford gained confidence with a 69-59 road victory over Henlopen Conference foe Caesar Rodney in Camden. This past week, Milford was able to parlay their new found confidence to a pair of home victories. The first came on Tuesday as they defeated Dover 85-50. With their record at 3-6, Milford hosted a Seaford team on Thursday night that entered the contest with a 4-4 record.
This game was all about growing up for Milford. It was a chance for them to see if they had taken the hard lessons earlier in the season and learned from them. In a contest that was eerily similar to the Sussex Central game, Milford got off to a quick lead and then began to slowly but surely give that lead away.
After Milford had squandered a 32-24 lead, with a combination of turnovers and missed opportunities, the Buccaneers found themselves trailing in the fourth quarter. It was a position that coach B.J. Joseph was less than thrilled with. “We let them into a game that they should never really have been in, it is something that shouldn’t have happened,” commented Coach Joseph. “This was a gut check for the guys tonight, I knew that they would be able to respond.” Respond they did. Taking the lessons learned earlier in the season, the Buccaneers seized control of the game and were big when they needed to be.
Milford was buoyed by the performance of sophomore Tikeace Harris, who netted 21 points and had 10 rebounds to lead all players in both categories. While the offense provided by Harris was important, the teamwork, defense and a few big plays are what sealed the victory for Milford. One of the catalysts for Milford was Shakur Manzo. The sophomore point guard provided a constant defensive presence and stepped up when he was needed the most.
While it may have looked bleak, with Milford leading 58-56 and time winding down, Manzo went to the line for two free throw attempts that could have sealed the victory. He missed them both and a feeling of “Here we go again” began to descend upon the gym. But not this game, there was going to be no quit on the part of Milford. Forcing a turnover on defense, the Bucs drove down the court with a fast break opportunity. On the play Shymer Hanzer hit Manzo with a scintillating behind the back pass, Manzo made the layup and was fouled in the process. Manzo would not repeat his previous mistake. “I couldn’t believe I missed the first two foul shots,” stated Manzo. “There was no way I was going to miss when I was presented with a second chance, I didn’t want to let my teammates down.” With the three point play complete, Milford pushed the lead to 61-56 and never looked back.
With a final score of 67-59, Coach Joseph believes the Bucs may have turned the corner. “They grew up a little tonight, they are starting to gain confidence in themselves,” said Joseph. The season is far from over and Milford could make a run at a tournament spot if they continue to improve.