By Kevin Eickman
Stunned; that was the only way to describe the expression felt by the Lady Buccaneers as they squared off against a 7-2 Indian River squad. Milford had spent the entire first quarter digging themselves a hole that they had little chance of getting out of. Bad shooting, bad passing, bad defense, and just bad luck had conspired to put the Bucs in a bind. Milford found themselves facing a 16 point deficit halfway through the second quarter and they where searching for answers.
With Milford realizing that something needed to change, they changed their defensive philosophy. Switching from zone to man coverage, first year coach Leona White was able to light a spark under her young team. “The zone wasn’t working, we made a decision to turn up the heat,” commented Coach White. “Once we got a higher focus on defense, it translated to the offense.”
Milford slowly began to regain their composure, understanding that the best way to stop the bleeding was one play at a time. “The girls stepped up tonight, they knew that they could win and the way to do that was by making plays,” White said. The Buccaneers clawed their way back into the game and after all that had gone wrong, found themselves trailing at the half 23-16.
The Buccaneers emerged from the locker room focused to start the second half, unleashing an offensive and defensive flurry that had Indian River on their heals. Before they knew what hit them, the Lady Indians found themselves down 25-23 just two minutes into the third quarter. Leading the charge for Milford was junior Shaniya Adkins. The game’s leading scorer with 15 points, she was thrilled to be there for her team. “This was a game we really wanted. I was happy that my teammates got me some really good looks at the basket and I was able to make my shots,” stated Adkins. “The way that we all stepped up and made plays tonight was great.”
While it’s one thing to regain the lead, it is another to hold it. There was little doubt that Indian River was going to give up. as Milford ended the third quarter with a 38-32 advantage. “Indian River is a very solid team, we knew that they would respond,” commented White.“Teams like that don’t go away, they don’t give up.”
The fourth quarter battle that ensued was thrilling as Indian River worked their way back into the game. Turning the tables on Milford and applying relentless pressure and opportunistic offense, Indian River came back to life with an effort led by senior Keeonya Shelton. Suddenly with 2:46 left in the game, Milford found themselves on the wrong end of a 46-45 score. Coach White called a timeout, and got the all the Buccaneers on the same page.
Paying close attention to what was happening, Milford junior Myleiris Vazquez began to assert herself. With each possession, she became more of a force. On both ends of the court she made play after play, as she and her teammates refused to quit. With 14 points in the contest, none where bigger then her final two, with 30 seconds left to give Milford a 52-50 lead. As Indian River tried to get the ball down the court Milford again forced a turnover and Vazquez hit sophomore Diamond Turner with a rocket of a pass for the games final two points. As the crowd in the Milford Central Academy roared, the Buccaneers relished their hard earned victory.
Talking with Vazquez after the game, it was easy to see the thrill that she had with how the team never gave up, earning a huge victory against a quality opponent “This is a team that doesn’t give up, every time someone needed to make a play they did.” commented Vazquez. “We have a lot more work to do, we want to continue to improve as the season continues.” The win Brings Milford to 5-6 on the season, and with the team beginning to gain confidence the outside chance of a State Tournament birth remains a possibility.