By Kevin Eickman
By almost any measure it has been a difficult season for Milford High School Basketball. However, it has not been one without some exciting moments. This past Thursday the 1-14 Buccaneers hosted a 12-5 Laurel team. On paper the game was a mismatch but on the court it was an entirely different entity. Make no mistake about it, a loss is still a loss. You can however compete to the best of your ability and still come up short.
While that may have been the case Thursday, Milford was in the game from start to finish. One of the key aspects of that was the heart and hustle Milford demonstrated all game long. The Bucs got off to a quick start and actually jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead. However, there was a downside to the aggressive defense Milford was playing; fouls.
“We wanted to come out and show we could be physical against a team that we knew could be very physical as well,” Coach Kevin Barkley stated. “As we learn our new system, we are going to make some mistakes and because of that we got in some early foul trouble.”
The Bucs led at the end of the first quarter 8-6, but with Laurel already in the bonus situation it was going to be a long eight minutes for Milford to try and stay within reach as the Bulldogs had numerous attempts from the free throw line. Making things even more difficult for Milford was the defensive pressure they were receiving from Laurel, who pressed almost the entire second quarter. This caused numerous Buc turnovers.
“We had a real hard time adjusting to their pressure. Like I said the system is a little new and everyone is learning where they need to be,” commented Barkley.“The foul situation hurt us in the first half, but we still stayed focused and in the game.”
Despite all that had gone wrong for Milford, they still only trailed 18-17 as the first half came to a close. In the third quarter Milford was able to solve the problem that the Laurel defensive pressure had been presenting as both teams found solid offensive pace. At the heart of the Milford attack was Liza Blake, who led all scorers with 16 points.
“Liza played extremely well tonight, she drew a big number of fouls and was solid at the line,” Barkley said. “When we got out on the break we started to find some people and make some key passes, we really looked good in the second half.”
Following the third quarter, Milford trailed 34-32 and were solidly in the game. As the teams went back and forth, Milford was actually able to gain the lead at one point, getting ahead 37-36 with just over four minutes remaining in the game. It took a 7-0 run by the visiting Bulldogs to close out Milford, pushing their advantage to eight points with just under two minutes remaining. While the Bucs managed to close the gap, the never completely bridged it.
While the loss may have been disheartening, Barkley was pleased with the effort Milford put in during the contest. “We got better as the game got on, we adjusted to the press, our players showed belief in each other,” Barkley commented. “These are the things we have been striving for and we saw it tonight and I expect the improvement to continue the rest of the season.”
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