DAGSBORO – Milford boys’ basketball (9-7) struggled late in the game against Indian River Tuesday night, falling to the IR Indians 54-47.
“The bottom line is we got out-hustled,” head coach Bob Spath said. We got out-worked, out-hustled. Offensively, we weren’t where we needed to be. We just didn’t knock down open shots tonight.”
Luckily, Spath doesn’t believe the loss will hold the team back considering a majority of the team’s losses this season have come against quality opponents.
Milford defeated IR 68-38 the first time these two teams met in early January, and they appeared to be heading towards another big win early in Tuesday night’s showdown.
The Buccaneers jumped ahead to a 16-9 first quarter lead, with seniors Brion Murray and Tymire Riddick putting up five points each in the first eight minutes.
Halfway through the second quarter the Bucs doubled IR up, taking a 28-14 lead behind the scoring of senior Chris Sampson (19 points in the game) and junior David Bowman.
A Bowman three-pointer at the 4:17 mark gave Milford the 14-point lead.
The final four minutes of the half featured a remarkable comeback by Indian River. A 12-0 run to end the second quarter drained all of the Buccaneers’ confidence and shifted the momentum over to IR.
Five different Indians’ players scored during the 12-0 run, including four points from sophomore Antonio Jones, two points from Felton, two points from senior Isaiah Bratton, two points from senior Colby Chandler and two points from junior Patrick Mumford.
Jones’ jump-shot with two seconds to spare brought IR to within 28-26.
“I think we got lazy,” Spath said. “I think we thought we were going to beat them by 30. We beat them by 30 last time, and we ended up losing to them tonight. I think when you get up by 12 you start to take some bad shots.”
Indian River tied the game up 12 seconds into the third quarter, but the Indians never once led in the third quarter and Milford even jumped out to a six-point lead at one point.
It wasn’t until the 2:04 mark in the fourth quarter that IR finally took its first lead of the second half. A jump-shot from Bratton put IR ahead 45-44, and going five-for-eight from the free throw line in the final 1:46 helped the Indians seal its fourth victory over the last five games.
“When we got them in the bonus that really helped us. Free throws are really important to win games,” IR sophomore Jamier Felton said. “As we kept driving to the paint and kept moving the ball around, they’d get aggravated and send us to the free throw line. And boom, we win the game.”
Senior Chris Sampson finished with a game-high 19 points in the loss.
For Milford, this marks the team’s third loss in the last four games, dropping the Bucs to 9-7.
The team had been coming off a big 80-58 win over rival Lake Forest a week prior, and coach Spath was hoping to use that win as a springboard into the season’s final five games.
“It was a big game,” Spath said of his team’s win over Lake. “It was a rivalry game, we had lost earlier in the season to them in a tight game. We played a really great game, everybody fulfilled their roles and we knocked down open shots. So the Lake game was good, a high-quality team win.”
On the other side of things, a come-from-behind win over a team such as Milford is a confidence-booster for a young squad such as head coach B.J. Joseph’s IR Indians.
“We were sitting at 8-5 heading in and now we’re 9-5 trying to make the tournament,” Joseph said. “In my first year last year we only won five games, and then this year we’re trying to make the tournament. It’s just one game at a time.”
Prior to the game, Milford was sitting as a No. 6 seed in the state tournament bracket. While the loss may drop the team down a notch or two, the Bucs are still well-within the state’s top 24 teams.
Indian River will play host to the Sussex Central Golden Knights (5-10) Thursday, Feb. 9 at 6:45 p.m.
Milford will travel to Caesar Rodney Thursday night to take on the 11-5 CR Riders. It’s a key match-up for Milford, who hope to finish the regular season off strong.
Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.