By Kevin Eickman
The Milford Middle School boys basketball team had one goal this season, to go undefeated and win the Class “A” title of the Capital Classic. Mission accomplished. This past Sunday evening in front of a jam-packed Central Academy Gymnasium, the Buccaneers thumped previously undefeated Woodbridge 63-40 in the championship game. With the victory, the Bucs pushed their season record to 13-0.
In a closely officiated contest, Woodbridge was able to keep pace with Milford for the majority of the first half. With Milford struggling a bit on the defensive boards, the visiting Blue Raiders hung tough throughout most of the opening half. The Buccaneers also struggled a bit early with turnovers, but by applying defensive pressure were able to keep pace with Woodbridge. The action was fast and furious with both teams capitalizing on fast break opportunities. The Bucs put together a 5-0 run at the end of the first quarter to gain a 16-10 advantage.
While the six-point advantage was not huge, it would be important. In a tightly-called contest, the Buccaneers found themselves on the wrong end of quite a few calls. Woodbridge however, would not able to take advantage of several trips to the foul line. Instead of outscoring Milford in the second quarter, the Blue Raiders were down seven as the Buccaneers took a 31-24 halftime lead.
The second half had a much better feel from the Milford perspective, as it had settled into a better flow in its half-court offense and continued to keep the heat on while playing solid defense. As the Milford momentum began to build, the crowd became increasingly enthusiastic. With each Milford score, the volume increased and so did the Buccaneers’ motivation.
“It was great to play in front of our home crowd tonight. They were so supportive of us; it really inspired the players through the entire game,” Milford coach Tony Hazzard said.
Milford outscored Woodbridge 17-7 in the third quarter with the crowd going wild. With each possession, Milford tightened its grip on the championship trophy. At the center of all the action was Buccaneer eighth-grade sensation, Kashmier Wise, who recorded 18 points on the night. In addition to his scoring, Wise was dishing out assists.
Wise turned in perhaps the game’s most thrilling play when he drove under the basket and made a spectacular assist to an open Milford player for an uncontested layup. The interesting part was that because Wise was playing with four fouls at the time, Hazzard debated pulling him from the game.
“I was really thinking hard about pulling him and saving him for later in the game if we really needed him,” Hazzard said. “He told me ‘I got you coach,’ so I trusted him and not thirty seconds later he turned in one of the most spectacular plays you will ever see at this level.”
For his efforts during the tournament, including an astounding 31 points against Dover Central Middle School on Wednesday, Wise was named the tournament MVP. In the Dover game, Wise took over when he sensed he needed to.
“The way they (Dover) were playing me, I had a lot of chances to score and took advantage of it,” Wise said. “Tonight (Sunday), was like every night, it was about the whole team. Everyone had a role to play and they all did their jobs and got key baskets when we needed them. That’s the best way to play, team basketball.” On being named the tournament MVP, Wise said, “It’s really an honor to be recognized, but this isn’t a one-man game and without my teammates, none of this happens.”
Speaking with Hazzard about the season, he had a great deal to say. “We said it from the beginning, our goal was to go undefeated. This is a great bunch of guys that put in the hard work every day. They earned this title because of their belief in each other and togetherness, it was wonderful coaching them this year.”