By Kevin Eickman
With a 6:20 tip-off on senior night, the gym at the Milford Central Academy was packed. Just as the girls needed a win, a victory for the boys would garner them the Henlopen South title as well. A title that they had never before claimed Their last division championship was actually when they won the 1989 northern title. With the crowd in full throttle to start the game, the hope was for a quick resolution to the issue allowing the celebration to begin early.
The optimistic nature of the crowd was quickly diminished as the visiting Wildcats got off to a fast start. After opening the game with a pair for three-pointers, Delmar continued their hot shooting throughout the first quarter. Milford showed little in the way of offense as their shooting looked to be a bit off. The result was a first quarter that saw Milford trailing 24-11.
If there is one thing this young Buccaneer team has done this season, it is grow up. It was this belief in themselves over the next three quarters that would serve them well. It started with a 20-4 run, that turned the Milford deficit into a lead. Milford was able to keep the lead and just prior to the halftime buzzer sounded, sophomore Damon Coleman let go with a three-point shot, giving Milford an unlikely 31-27 lead as the teams entered the locker room.
Milford would continue to play well as the third quarter resumed, often stretching their advantage to eight or nine points, just never being able to put the Wildcats away. Slowly but surely Delmar whittled away at the Buccaneer advantage. What looked as if it might have been a laugher, was quickly turning into a test of wills. With the fourth quarter winding down, Delmar drew ever closer. Cutting the deficit to six, then four, then two. Finally with 2:28 remaining, it was all tied up at 46, it was quite clear that Delmar was going nowhere.
Milford would respond netting to the next four points, the final two coming courtesy of a layup by sophomore Son Martinez which gave Milford a 50-46 advantage with time winding down. While the game may have looked over, it was far from it. Milford committed two turnovers in succession and Delmar converting four consecutive free-throws, the teams were knotted at 50 with just over a minute to go.
With Milford again failing to score, Delmar headed down the court with time winding down and a chance to take the lead. The Buccaneer defense stood tall however, forcing a turnover and turning it into an offensive opportunity. Milford sophomore Devin Kravitz spotted sophomore Brion Murray on a backdoor cut. The past was perfect and as Murray went up for the shot he was fouled hard and sent to the line.
As Murray went to the line, it was impossible not to remember the very first game Milford played this season. In a game against Lake Forest, Murray had missed four of five free-throws down the stretch on that December evening. Following that game, Murray made it clear that free-throws were something that teams need to make. “We got lucky tonight, missing those shots could of cost us,” Murray said at the time. “If we want to win, we have to make those shots.”
With 16.9 seconds on the clock, Murray had his chance. Stepping to the line, Murray calmly drained them both, putting Milford ahead 52-50. Listening to Murray following the game, he was asked about the first free-throw. He shared that he was very confident at the line with the game on the line. “I was just thinking be great, no pressure on me just make the shot like your supposed to,” Murray stated.
Following a timeout, Delmar drove to the hoop and Murray was there to swat the ball out of bounds. While the shot had been blocked, Delmar retained possession. Following timeouts by Delmar and Milford, the Wildcat offense worked the ball into the paint and then out for a three-point attempt. With the Milford defense collapsing rapidly on the shooter, the shot bounced off the rim and into the hands of Kravitz. Delmar would have one final desperation heave as the buzzer sounded, but to no avail. As time expired, so had the Buccaneer’s wait for a division title.
Speaking with Kravitz after the game, he felt that even with the slow start Milford would be able to find their way back into the game. “Coach made sure that I had the boys all in, when they had a 12 point lead we weren’t worried about nothing,” Kravitz stated.
As a result of their victory the Bucs will travel to Dover this Friday to compete for the Henlopen Conference title. The boys will battle 19-1 Polytech following the girls game. “Facing a team like Poly is going to be a real challenge, but like we have all season long we will hope to get better from it,” coach Bob Spath stated.