By Kevin Eickman
This past Friday the Milford boys’ basketball team hosted Henlopen South rival Woodbridge. With a victory, the Buccaneers would all but lock up the South. A loss however, and it would be anyone’s guess as to who would win the division. The visiting Blue Raiders ventured into The Central Academy with a 10-2 (6-1) record, riding an eight game winning streak.
While Milford had been struggling as recently as two weeks ago, over the last few games indications were the the Buccaneers were rounding into shape. Speaking with Milford coach Bob Spath prior to the game, he indicated that his team was confident heading into the matchup. “We just need to play our game tonight to beat these guys, I believe we are getting to where we want to be,” Spath stated. “We have been playing better and really practicing well, this is a game we need to win.”
What followed for the Bucs was four quarters of solid basketball. From the opening tip, Milford looked energetic and enthusiastic. These were traits that Milford would utilize the entire game, digging deep when they needed to, earning a 46-41 victory that was anything but easy.
With under a minute remaining in the game, it would be plays by two key Buccaneers that would key the victory. The first would be a pair of free throws by Brion Murray. With Milford clinging to a two point lead, the junior would step to the line and calmly sink both of them. This isn’t the first time Murray has made big foul shots.
“I always have to be consistent with my free throws, especially in a big situation,” Murray commented. “Everybody on the team has faith in me that I’m gonna knock em down, I gotta knock em down.” Following the foul shots, Milford forced a turnover and junior Henry Neismith would put the final nail in the Woodbridge coffin as he made a basket off the break. The final two of Neismith’s 16 points, would give Milford a six point lead with 46 seconds to go. It was a lead that they would not relinquish.
After the teams had played a close first quarter, with Milford finishing the stanza holding an 11-9 lead. Milford would threaten to settle matters early as Neismith would make a pair of three pointers as the Buccaneers went on an 11-0 run, midway through the second quarter. Woodbridge withstood the Buc charge and managed to close the gap to just six points, 22-16 at the half.
The third quarter was all Woodbridge as they would close the gap to a single point 31-30, with junior sensation Cornell Corbin, who had a game high 17 points, leading the way. Considered one of the top players in the South, if not the State, Milford was struggling to contain him. It was a suggestion by assistant coach Patrick Helmick, with just about six minutes to go, that would help to slow the Woodbridge phenom.
“He said coach, lets go to the 1-3-1 and we went to it late in the game and it changed everything,” Spath said. “[Woodbridge] didn’t know where to operate, they didn’t know where to get their shot from. So the 1-3-1 worked well and they didn’t move the ball quick enough to get an easy look down there.” For the rest of the quarter, Corbin was kept in check.
The victory improved Milford’s overall record to 9-4, but more importantly improved their Henlopen South record to 8-0. With just four games remaining in the South, the Buccaneers would have to lose at least three of those contests for Milford to even have a chance at not winning the division.
The mission now for the Buccaneers is to prepare for the post season. It is a task the Spath believes his team must seriously embrace if they want to make some tournament noise come March. “We want to go 16-4, if we go 16-4 we might be talking about a first round bye and a home game,” Spath stated. “You start to cook it up now, you can’t lose this game tonight. If your goal is to play 25 games and do something in the playoffs then you’ve got to bring it tonight.”
Milford will play on the road this Tuesday, before hosting Lake Forest Friday night at 6:15.