By Kevin Eickman
Prior to the start of the season, Milford boys’ basketball coach Bob Spath set some goals for his team. One of them was winning the Henlopen South title, the other to make some noise in the State tournament. This past Thursday evening, Milford hosted a Seaford squad that came into the game with a 3-5 (2-2) record. What unfolded is something that we have seen before from Milford, they fell behind early and scrambled to come back to secure a late victory. It is a pattern that Milford has repeated on several occasions and they would be wise to fix it going forward, if they plan on being relevant come tournament time.
If not for the clutch play of junior Brion Murray in the fourth quarter, Milford would probably not have come away with a hard fought 47-43 victory. It was Murray’s hard work in crunch time, which delivered the win for Milford, when they absolutely did not play their best.
In the fourth quarter, Murray converted 5-6 opportunities from the foul line. With the pressure on, Murray looked like the most composed player on the floor. “I love when it gets down to two minutes and it’s a tight game. As a captain, I feel like I can deliver for my team,” stated Murray.
Spath is also comfortable putting the ball in Murray’s hands with the game on the line. “Brion shoots really high percentage free throws in practice and in games,” Spath stated. “He’s the kind of kid that’s a gamer. Briton’s the guy we were hoping to get to the free throw line.”
The game started as a difficult fight for Milford, with the offense having a tough time penetrating the Blue Jays zone defense. From the start Milford looked uncomfortable and had an extremely hard time getting into flow on the offensive end. Adding to the problems for Milford were some costly turnovers, resulting in some extra chances for Seaford. The result was a 15-10 deficit at the end of the first quarter.
Things did not get much better for the Buccaneers in the second quarter as they recorded only eight points, while holding the Blue Jays to seven. The result would be a 22-18 deficit as the teams ended the first half. The lack of offense in the first half was a big concern to Spath, who knows that Milford cannot continue like this as the season progresses.
“These zones, if you’re not shooting just a little bit against them then they can pack it in even more,” stated Spath. “You’ve got to shoot 15-to-17-foot jumpers over the zone at some point at every level. If you can’t make them…we shot probably six or seven air-balls from three. I hope it was just an off night.”
The positive to take away for Milford is that they have now been through the Henlopen South for the first time this season. In the process they have compiled a 6-0 division record and have positioned themselves solidly in their quest to repeat as Henlopen South Champions. “If we go through again and end up 12-0, division champions with no losses, that’s one of our goals. It’s a stepping stone potentially,” stated Spath.
At 7-3, Milford has some big non-division games on the horizon. The first will be this Thursday as the Buccaneers will host Dover 8-3 (6-0) at 6:15. That game along with an upcoming road trip to Saint Mark’s will be key tests for Milford and Spath is looking forward to them.
“It’s all in preparation for the tournament. Can we get out there and compete with the best teams in the state? Right now the answer is no, but we have some games to go,” Spath said. “We have a chance to prove ourselves next week against Dover.”