A one-point loss to Taunton preceded a rare division home defeat to Stoughton last week but with a strong emphasis on defense and a career night from junior Jordan Darling (33 points, 12 rebounds), the Scarlet Hawks put an end to the brief skid with an important 73-61 verdict over visiting Oliver Ames.
The Hawks were the lone Davenport team to win on Tuesday, a week after the division was swept by the Kelley-Rex.
Milford turned the game on its head with a terrific third quarter, doubling its output from the first half in just eight minutes while its defense got the job done against a Tigers’ squad that can score in a variety of ways.
“We came out [in the second half] with a sense of urgency,” said Milford head coach Paul Seaver. “Our defense led to offense is the best way to put it. We had our opportunities in two games last week and we didn’t capitalize so we came into this game really focused on our team and what we can do.
“We put a real emphasis on defense the last couple of days and looking at the score, we held them to 40 points from the field so I thought our defense was phenomenal. I think our defense is what won us the game tonight.”
A back-and-forth first half featured 21 combined fouls and 23 combined free throw shots, so there wasn’t much rhythm for either side. Darling got off to a strong start with seven points in the first quarter while Dom Schofield, Colby Pires (11 points, eight rebounds), and Ben Blanchard (12 points) all scored to help the Hawks seize a 13-8 lead early.
Oliver Ames briefly overcame a tough first shooting quarter (2-for-10 from the field) for its best offensive stretch of the night. The Tigers went on a 12-0 run in the middle of the second quarter that featured seven straight from senior Evan Craig (15 points, eight rebounds), a layup and free throw from Amari Brown (12 points, five rebounds, four assists), and a mid-range jumper from Jay Spillane to go ahead 20-15.
But the Tigers’ offense cooled over the final four minutes of the second quarter, and for the majority of the game. Milford countered with an 11-4 run to end the quarter that was capped by a layup from Ralph Franklin Jr. at the buzzer that gave the Hawks a 26-24 lead at halftime.
Blanchard opened the third quarter with a three and the Hawks were off and running from there. And even when Milford was off the mark on its first shot, like it was on two of its next four possessions, the Hawks shined on the offensive boards. In both cases, it was Darling that collected the offensive rebound and went right back up for two, and junior Sean Murray chipped in with a putback of his own to give the hosts a 37-28 lead at the midway point.
The Hawks pushed the lead to double-digits for the first time on a layup from Blanchard, and the offense closed the quarter with an incredible surge.
Franklin Jr. scored off an assist from Tyler Wetherbee, Darling converted in the post and then on a breakaway after a steal. Weatherbee used a nifty feed from the baseline to find Darling for two more before Oliver Ames looked to put a stop to the bleeding by sinking its first three (after missing its first 12 attempts) via Owen Friel (10 points) with just a couple of seconds left in the third.
But Milford had one more punch to deliver as Darling banked in a shot from just over half court to beat the buzzer and give the Hawks a 52-36 advantage through three quarters.
“This is one of those ones where we got thoroughly outplayed in every phase,” said Oliver Ames head coach Don Byron. “Right down the line, defensively not good, offensively bad choices, bad shooting, and on and on…just felt like we got outplayed.
“Because we’re not shooting well (19-for-59 FG), we’re in transition defense all the time. We usually shoot the ball better and can set the defense. And they hurt us on the boards all night.”
Pires opened the final quarter with a three, Murray scored down low, and Pires finished off his own miss as the Hawks pushed the lead to 59-38 early in the fourth. The Hawks held OA without a made field goal for the first three minutes, limiting the Tigers to just three free throws.
OA senior Ryan Burkett (13 points, 12 rebounds) scored down low but a three-point play from Darling with 2:50 left in the game gave the Hawks their largest lead at 64-46 and capped the junior forwards’ big night.
“He’s always up for the challenge, there’s no doubt about it,” Seaver said of Darling. “And obviously tonight was a career night for Jordan but just after the game, I heard someone tell him how many points he had but he said the team won, that’s all that matters. That sums up the type of kid he is and the team-first attitude everyone on this team has.”
The teams combined for 20 free throws in the final two minutes of action to bring the final score to 73-61.
Milford boys basketball (5-4 Hockomock, 6-4 overall) moves into sole possession of first place in the Davenport just past the midway mark and will travel to Canton on Friday. Oliver Ames (4-5, 8-6) will try to bounce back when it visits King Philip on the same night.