By Kevin Eickman
After clinching the Henlopen South on Tuesday, it was all there for the taking. Win their next three games and the Milford boys’ basketball team was looking at a first round bye and hosting a second round game. It was a dream scenario for Milford, something that would enable them to make the consecutive post season run coach Bob Spath has been wanting. Win three games and it was there for them, drop one and it would be difficult to predict where Milford would be seeded.
While facing off against a 4-9 Caesar Rodney team might not have looked difficult on the surface, looking a little deeper into their schedule should have given the Buccaneers reason to be worried. The visiting Senators had played some very close games against some of the better teams in the Henlopen North, barely losing to some of the top teams in the state.
The game started well for Milford as their defense looked solid in the first quarter, allowing only four points in the period. Scoring eight points gave them what seemed like a comfortable lead. However, what had looked like a routine game rapidly deteriorated into a Milford battle for survival.
In the second quarter, the perfect storm arrived in the Milford Central Academy gymnasium. The visiting Riders began to shoot over the top of the Milford zone defense. Time and again Caesar Rodney would find the open man behind the arch. More often than not the player would make the three-point shot. The three-point shot was the key weapon for Caesar Rodney on the evening, they would make seven on the night. Sophomore Jaquan Hooks would tally four three-pointers in the game, on his way to a game high 21 points. Not helping matters for the Buccaneers was a slow start and sloppy ball handling. Turnovers were plentiful early for Milford and would be another key factor to the Bucs falling behind.
Starting the third quarter with a 20-17 deficit, Milford continued their slow and lethargic play. Try as they might, they could not overcome their lethargy. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Milford was facing a 31-24 deficit. It was a lead that would expand to 11 points halfway through the quarter, before Milford finally decided to get back in the game.
The player igniting the Milford charge would be senior Devin Kravitz, who would finish the game as Milford’s high scorer with 13 points. Nine of those points would come as three-pointers, all of a different variety. One would come from behind the arch, another as an and one and the final would be on a missed three point shot on which he was fouled. Kravitz calmly stepped to the line and made all three free throws. Suddenly Milford had closed the gap and even gave themselves a chance to win, trailing 48-46 with 5.6 seconds left. The Buccaneers worked the ball for an open three-point look that went in and out. Leaving the Buccaneers with a crushing defeat and plenty of questions going forward.
Speaking with coach Spath following the game, he knows that the lack of a victory against a Henlopen South team is a serious flaw for this team. “In all honesty we need to look at the big elephant in the room. In our non-conference we’re not getting it done,” Spath stated. “When we play against these teams that are generally bigger, faster, stronger or one of those three, it’s a challenge for us.”
Milford 12-6 (10-0) has just two regular season games left. This Tuesday they will host an 11-4 Laurel team, that would like nothing better than to hand Milford a senior night defeat. On Thursday, Milford will wrap up the regular season at 7-9 Seaford. Following that, Milford will play in the Henlopen Championship game prior to the start of the playoffs.