By Kevin Eickman
Prior to the season, Milford boys basketball coach Lamarr Shorts knew it was going to take some time for his team to gain cohesiveness. While this Buccaneers squad has talent, their main problem to this point has been learning to play as a unit. There are times when they look as if they can play with anybody, then there are times when it looks as if they have just met each other for the first time.
The final two regular season games prior to Christmas break were prime examples of what the Bucs can be, while also indicating it’s going to take a lot of work for them to get there. Make no mistake about it, this team has the potential to be solid and as the season goes on there is little doubt that they will make it happen, if they give the effort.
On December 17, Milford hosted rival Lake Forest in a thrilling game, one that witnessed them fall behind early and make the big plays when it mattered most. Finding itself trailing 18-12 at the end of the first quarter, MHS got back in the game with a 20-point second quarter. That sent the teams level into the halftime locker rooms tied at 32.
“We have gotten off to some slow starts this year and it is something we are trying to rectify,” Coach Shorts said. “It takes us a while to get going, against Lake it almost cost us. We came back and were able to win the game, but we shouldn’t be putting ourselves in such a poor position from the start.”
The teams equaled each other in the third quarter scoring 13 points each, setting up an exciting finish. With both teams stepping up their games on defense, it came down to the closing seconds with the teams knotted at 54.
During a timeout, Shorts drew up a play for senior Lamonte Isabell instructing him that he thought Isabell would be open coming around the corner and if he wasn’t to kick the ball back out and Milford would work it in from there. It turned out Shorts was correct in his assumption and Isabell made the game-winning basket.
“I had all the faith in the world in him. He is a senior and I really trust him with the ball,” Shorts added. “If the play wasn’t there for him, he would have made the correct decision and found the open man.” As a result, Milford gained its second victory of the season, 56-54.
Two nights later was a different story for the Buccaneers however, as they hosted Polytech in a Henlopen North tilt. From the start, it was clear that Milford was once again suffering from its early game lethargy. The visiting Panthers came out shooting hot and the Bucs did little to answer the challenge. By the time the dust had settled, MHS found itself in a 22-9 hole as the first quarter ended. This would leave Milford chasing the entire game.
To their credit though, the Buccaneers battled back again and again. Twice overcoming 14-point deficits to close within five. Perhaps the one play that summed it up the best was when Milford was trailing by just five and looking to close the gap.
Having gained the ball via a Panther turnover, Milford needed to inbound the ball to have a shot at drawing closer. The Bucs failed to inbound properly, and Polytech once again extended the lead in what would ultimately be a 72-66 Buccaneers loss.
Perhaps the hardest part of the loss is what could have been. Milford had a difficult time controlling the ball. In transition, the Bucs shot themselves in the foot several times and ended up with an astonishing 29 turnovers, a number Shorts knows needs correcting.
“We simply can’t play like that. Look, Poly is a good team, but we aren’t going to beat anybody when you handle the ball like we did tonight,” Shorts said. “We are going to work diligently over the break to fix our issues and come back a stronger team. I believe in these guys and I know what they are capable of. We just have to go out there and execute.
Sitting at 2-4, Milford will return to action January 7 at home against Sussex Tech with the game set for a 6:30 tip.
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