By Kevin Eickman
On the Saturday before the start of the Milford girls’ basketball season, the young charges of coach Leona White were doing just what you would expect them to be doing. Early 9 am practices are typically not the favorites of most players but judging from the enthusiasm of the Buccaneers on this day, it was obvious they did not mind. “These girls are not afraid to do the hard work, give the effort that it takes to win,” coach White commented. “This is a group that picked up a great deal of experience last season and we are looking to build off that.”
What Milford was looking to build off of is a 15-5 record, that culminated in a a Henlopen South title last season. Along with that divisional title came a tournament birth, which ended in a first round exit for the Bucs for the second consecutive season. “It’s all about getting better, it’s all about taking the next step as a team,” White said. “Just making the playoffs isn’t good enough anymore, we want to advance in the tournament.”
One of the advantages that Milford has is that they only graduated one girl of last season’s squad. It is an advantage the White believes will make this year’s edition of the Buccaneers that much more formidable. “There is no substitute for experience and these girls got plenty of it last season,” stated White. “The fact that we are building on what we already know is a big advantage, we aren’t starting from zero.”
By the end of last season, Milford had developed a pressure defense and an up tempo style that gave the Buccaneer’s opponents fits. White anticipates much more of the same this season. “We are going to pressure teams into mistakes and we are going to capitalize on them,” said White. “We have players that are able to push the ball up the court, that is something that we are going to have to rely on to win basketball games.”
Players to keep an out for this season are seniors Kala Fluitt and Rajene Bowe, along with sophomore Tyra Mifflin. Milford will be looking for them to spearhead the attack with both skills and leadership this season. “Those are three very tenacious players who can not only make plays, they can make the rest of the players on the court better,” White stated.
With so many returning players from last season, it may seem that the opportunities for newcomers might be limited. While that may have been true initially, look for a few of the freshman to see some varsity time as the year progresses. “This year’s freshman group has the makings of something special, these girls have come in here and are working very hard,” White commented. “There are quite a few of them, who if they keep working the way that they have, will definitely earn minutes.”
While there was only one loss from last year’s squad, it was a big one. With Xitali Roman graduated, Milford will lose a big advantage that they had in the paint. “Losing Z is something that is going to be difficult for us,” said White. “She was a force in the middle for us last year, we are just going to have to find ways to compensate for that.”
Milford will open the season this Tuesday as they travel to Delmar. Tip is set for 5:45 pm.