Milford boys net season-opening hoops win

MILFORD – Holding just a slim lead over visiting conference rival Delmar heading into halftime, there was no panic in the Milford boys’ basketball team during its season opener.

That’s because the defending Southern Division champions were confident in their abilities as a second half team thanks to the experience gained from last season.

Bucs junior Henry Nesmith finished with 27 points in Milford's win. (The Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

Bucs junior Henry Nesmith finished with 27 points in Milford’s win. (The Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

The confidence was justified, as the Buccaneers outscored the Wildcats by 19 over the final two quarters and won 62-40.

“Going into halftime we shouldn’t have had the lead,” Bucs head coach Bob Spath said. “When we went into (the locker room at) halftime everybody was really relaxed. Everybody was like ‘hey, we’re a second half team. We’re going to take care of business in the second half.’ And we settled down and took care of business in the second half.”

Junior Henry Nesmith did a lot of Milford’s work taking care of business on the offensive side of things during the third quarter, tallying 11 of his game-high 27 points as Milford opened up a 37-25 lead by period’s end.

That it was Nesmith, whose three-pointer near the end of the second quarter helped Milford go into the break on a 7-0 run and with a 21-18 advantage, with the hot hand came as no surprise to Spath.

“Henry’s our leading scorer returning from last year, so naturally he’s going to continue to fill a big role for us in the scoring department,” Spath said. “His offense is a steady thing for us. When we go through dry spells, he bails us out and that’s what he did tonight. So we emphasize to Henry a lot about his defense, we want him to become a complete player.”

Defensively Milford held Delmar without a point for nearly half the third quarter.

With the Wildcats settling for just 40 total points – 18 of which were scored by senior Kavon Trader – Spath said he was happy about his team’s effort with its back to the bucket. That included the effort given by his players that came off the bench with game well in hand near its conclusion.

“Our goal is to hold teams to 48 or under, because that’s kind of like the magic number for the top eight teams in the state tournament last year,” Spath said. “Defense is our thing. Holding them to 40… even when we got into a little garbage time at the end when sometimes you give up some buckets and your points per game allowed average goes out the window, we held onto it because our last five going in played good defense.”

Senior Devin Kravitz drives around a defender. (The Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

Senior Devin Kravitz drives around a defender. (The Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

Earlier in the contest, Delmar took a one-point advantage into the second quarter and eventually boosted its lead to 18-14 near the end of the second before Milford went on its run. Along with Nesmith’s three, the other four points the Bucs netted before the break came from senior Devin Kravitz’s work from the foul line.

“Knocking down the free throws, I was just thinking in my head that I wanted to do anything I could to help my team win,” Kravitz said. “At the end of the day, I want my team to win and my coach to be happy.”

What will make his coach happiest is if Milford expands on the progress it made last season, Spath’s first with the team, and makes a deep state tournament run.

“It’s just like the NCAA tournament, that’s the bottom line,” he said. “You have teams that play their best basketball in the NCAA in December and that’s great, yay for you, but when it comes down to it, it’s the tournament. (In high school) when you get into the tournament, that’s when the state championship is determined. You can have an undefeated regular season, lose in the first round and it’s a horrible season. Getting the banner for a division championship is nice and all, but the way it’s setup, the tournament is the only thing that matters.”

Notes: Midway through the second quarter, one of the Bucs’ post threats, junior Marcus Correa, came down awkwardly on his knee during a hard play on the base line and needed help getting off the court. He did not return. Losing Correa for any amount of time, Spath said, could potentially hurt Milford’s output on both sides of the court despite the team having more size than it did a season ago.

“Marcus is our best big man,” said the coach. “We’ve got size if you go by the numbers, but it’s inexperienced.”

Versus the Wildcats, Buccaneers junior Brion Murray joined Nesmith as the only Milford player in double figures. He finished with 10 points.

Milford is scheduled to play again Thursday at home, 6:15 p.m., against nonconference St. Andrews. The Bucs then travel to play South foe Woodbridge on Friday at 7:15 p.m.

From the Milford Chronicle Sports Desk

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