By Kevin Eickman
A new era of basketball began this past Friday as the Milford boys’ basketball team hosted Lake Forest in the 2014-2015 season opener. In a game that was clearly a story of two halves, we learned two things about this year’s version of the Buccaneers. They are both patient and resilient.
Milford spent most of the first half playing from behind, a great deal of it was of their own making. Time and again during the first half Milford committed poor fouls. Before Milford seemed to have their feet under them, they had put Lake in the bonus at the start of the second quarter. The key factor in placing Lake into the bonus so soon was over aggressiveness on the part of the Buc defense. “We played too aggressively in the first half and our philosophy is to allow the contested three point shot,” coach Bob Spath commented. “They didn’t take any three point shots in the first half because we were pressuring them too much on the perimeter.”
The result of the poor defensive discipline was a 29-25 halftime deficit for the Buccaneers. In his first game on the Milford sideline, Spath had some coaching to do. “The adjustments we made at halftime were to allow them to shoot over us and make them shoot jump shots,” Spath said. “We felt confident with a hand in their face they wouldn’t be able to make those jump shots and that was the difference in the game.”
With the strategy firmly reenforced, the Milford defense looked much more confident as the second half began to unfold. In the third quarter the defense allowed no three points for the visiting Spartans, while the Milford offense began to heat up as well. Sophomore point guard, and team co-captain Brion Murray was able to penetrate the Lake defense, en route to a game high 18 points.
“The defense had too many gaps and my teammates,” Murray commented when asked how he played so well. “As a point guard my coach is trying to turn me into a leader, and on the court coach. I’m just taking everything he says and passing it on to my teammates, helping them relax.”
Milford began the fourth quarter with a 33-32 advantage and quickly extended that lead, flirting with double digits most of the period. With junior Son Martinez, nine points, getting into the scoring act, it looked as if Milford would cruise easily. Lake was not done yet however and had worked the deficit to just six points with 58 seconds remaining. Standing at the line for Milford was Murray, he had just missed three consecutive attempts from the line, a fourth miss would have kept it a two possession game.
“I was thinking we were going to be doing some running at practice. Coach likes to make us run and then practice our free throw, just like it is in a game,” Murray stated. Murray connected on that final free throw and secured the victory.
Talking with Spath about Murray, he believes he has the makings of a special person. “Brion leads our team in practices and puts forth a tremendous effort every single day,” said Spath.“He’s always very positive and he is also a really solid student in the classroom.”
Talking with Spath about coaching the team, it is obvious that he is enthusiastic about what he has to work with. “I love these kids, they’re coachable, they’re enthusiastic, they are everything a coach would want,” he said. “They practice and play hard, they are respectful and they have bought into what we are trying to build here.” Spath believes that how they carry themselves off the court is just as important as what they do on it. “It’s important for us to have a good reputation in the community and the class.”
Milford finished 12-8 last season and lost in the first round of the playoffs. This season Spath hopes that the team can improve on that. “Our goal for this season is to get better every week, make it to the State tournament and be peaking when we get there,” stated Spath.
Besides Murray, junior co-captain Devin Kravitz will be looked to provide leadership on the floor. Spath believes that those two players will be keys for Milford this season. “Those guys are very dedicated to their craft, I feel very comfortable with them providing the leadership this team needs on the floor.”
Milford will host Cape Henlopen this Thursday, December 11 at 6:15 pm.