Time was winding down, with the inevitable about to occur. Milford was about to have their season end, falling to the top ranked Sanford Warriors. There would be no comeback, no miracle ending, just the cold hard fact that their season would soon be over. In those final minutes however, the Buccaneers demonstrated the one thing that had been a constant this entire season. They would not quit, they would not give in, even though the clock told them they did not have a chance.
There was Henry Neismith, playing in his last game as a Buccaneer, continuing to try and shoot his team back into the game. Neismith would end up with 20 points on the evening, dropping six three-pointers in the process.
Milford had played poorly at the start, something that can happen when a team is playing on the big stage for the first time. They had committed multiple turnovers in the first quarter, turnovers that Sanford was more than willing to take advantage of. It put Milford behind early against the top seed, not a good place to be.
The Buccaneers continued to make just enough shots to keep them within striking distance but they never made enough to close the gap. After trailing 19-11 at the start of the second period, Sanford would expand the gap even further. In outscoring Milford 21-12 in the second quarter, the Warriors had all but settled the issue.
“They shot a really high percentage in the first half, they lit us up,” Coach Bob Spath said. “When that happens and you get behind in the game, the guys come back with their head down a bit.” The result would be a 40-23 halftime deficit.
Milford was never going to come back from that type of hole, but they were not going to go quietly. With Nesmith leading the charge, Milford would hold their own against Sanford in the third quarter. Unfortunately staying even was not going to do it, they needed to find a way to outscore Sanford.
With Neismith making two consecutive three-pointers with just over two minutes remaining in the game, Milford had closed the gap to twelve. The Buccaneers had the chance to narrow the gap to single digits, for the first time since midway through the first quarter. Neismith had a look, not the best of looks, but he had to take the shot. In the movies, the shot goes in. Last night however, the ball rimmed out and Milford would never be that close to the lead again.
“I can’t say enough about Henry. I mean Henry laid it all out there, he’s scrapping for every loose ball, he’s battling,” Spath said. “He was doing everything he can, he was talking on defense.” Even with all the efforts of Neismith and the rest of the Buccaneers, it was never going to be enough to earn the victory.
While they may not have won on Sunday night, they did win two prior playoff games. Coming back against a determined Howard team to win 65-54, last Wednesday at home. Then traveling up to Saint Elizabeth’s on Friday, where they would punch there ticket to the Bob Carpenter Center with a convincing 63-48 victory.
As the final buzzer sounded Sunday, there was little left to do for the Buccaneers but shake their opponent’s hands and walk off the court. The Buccaneers walked of the court to the appreciative ovation of hundreds of the Milford faithful, those who had traveled the 60 miles north to cheer their team on. These fans who had cheered for them all season long, had watched them close out a successful season. They let the players know just how much they appreciated all they had accomplished this year.
While some of the players will be moving on and others will be back, the bar has now been raised thanks to this group. Spath put it fairly simply when talking about the year. “It was a great season, an A-plus season,” Spath stated. “When we started the game tonight there were only five teams left in the State and we were one of them.”