By Kevin Eickman
The Milford boys basketball team started the week with a tough loss. Dropping a Henlopen South road game, 58-47 to Laurel. With the loss, Milford watched their season record fall to 5-6, not the type of record a team seeking a tournament birth likes to see.
“We came out real flat on Tuesday, it’s something that we really can’t afford to keep on doing if we want to be successful.” coach Bob Spath stated. With the loss to Laurel, Milford also watched their Henlopen South record fall to 4-2, putting them in third place in the division.
Luckily for the Buccaneers, the wait between games was not too long. Just two nights later they found themselves hosting Sussex Central. While Central entered the game with just a 2-9 record, the Golden Knights came to play on Thursday. With junior point guard Devin Kravitz not available for Milford, the offense looked a bit different than it has in recent games. The goal was to get the ball to sophomore Henry Nesmith.
With Nesmith the focus of the Milford offense, he responded in big time fashion. Nesmith finished with a game high 28 points, even after missing most of the fourth quarter after a hard fall. “I just came out tonight and gave it my all, coach told me I was going to need 30 if we wanted to win tonight,” Nesmith stated.
The game was a close affair throughout, as Milford never really seemed totally confident. Perhaps it was the lack of having Kravitz or just an off night. Whatever the reason, Milford found themselves in a battle. After finishing the first quarter with a 11-10 advantage, the Buccaneers were able to make it to the half with a 29-25 lead.
In the third quarter Central would continue to slow the Milford offense, while attempting to close the gap. Slowly but surely it looked as if the Knights were beginning to impose their will on Milford. As the the third quarter came to a close, Central had closed the Milford lead to 38-36.
The fourth quarter started off poorly for the Buccaneers as Central took advantage of Milford miscues and quickly took the lead. Coach Spath called a timeout to settle down his young squad. The timeout was effective as the Buccaneers settled down on offense, while turning up the pressure on defense. With Nesmith on the bench, sophomore Brion Murray stepped up his offensive output when Milford desperately needed it. Murray would finish with 16 points on the night.
Milford would push the advantage to 48-43 with 1:53 left in the game. Not only did Milford have the lead, they had the ball as well. What followed was something young teams do that can make coaches lose their hair, with nothing but time on their side. Milford turned the ball over two times in a row. “I tried to stress to the guys that in that situation we wanted to be smart with the ball,” commented Spath. “We came out of the timeout and promptly turned it right over, it’s something we are going to have to work on.”
Even with the turnovers, Milford was still able to survive for the victory and even their record at 6-6. Talking with Nesmith after the game, he believed the victory would serve the Buccaneers well going forward. “A win like this gives us the confidence we need to let us know that we can compete with the other teams in Delaware,” Nesmith stated.
The confidence was evident on Saturday as Milford rallied from a six point halftime deficit for a road win at Dover. The victory moved the Buccaneers record to 7-6 for the season. The Buccaneers will have to keep on improving if they want to make the tournament; something that Spath addressed on Thursday. “I showed the guys on a board, a season is like a roller coaster, full of ups and downs,” Spath said. “I explained it’s how they responded to the downs that reveals character, I believe we are headed in the right direction in that regard.”
Milford will host Seaford on Tuesday, before heading to Woodbridge for a huge game on Friday.