“We just didn’t hit shots tonight, that’s it,” Seaver said. “They hit shots and we didn’t, that was the story of the game.”
Seaver’s diagnosis was backed up by the numbers as the Hawks shot just 28% from the field (and under 20% from the three-point range) while Marlboro hit nearly half of its shots, picking up a 67-41 win in the D2 Central Semifinals.
For the first four minutes of the game, it looked like Milford would be in good shape on both ends of the court. The Hawks hit on five of their first seven shots — two from junior Brendan White — and one of the misses was converted with an offensive putback, rattling off an 11-3 run.
But on Marlboro’s ensuing trip up the court, Milford senior Kayden Kelley (eight points, five rebounds, three assists) picked up his second foul with 3:33 to go in the first.
And just 30 seconds later, senior Andrew Fraioli was called for his second, sending both of Milford’s big men to the bench. Marlboro took advantage, finishing the last three minutes with an 8-2 run, including a late three that gave the Panthers a 14-13 edge after one.
Brendon Sailer gave the Hawks a boost off the bench, hitting back-to-back 18-foot jumpers, each one putting Milford up by a point.
Sailor’s second jumper came with 7:06 left in the second quarter. Unfortunately, the Hawks didn’t score again in the quarter until 1:53 to go.
In that span, the Hawks went 0-for-8 from the floor, having two of their four three-point shots go halfway down only to rim out. Another two chances were swatted by Marlboro star Chris Doherty (24 points, 13 rebounds).
On the other hand, the Panthers’ offense was finding success, getting a couple of kind rolls in the process. The 15-0 run included two offensive putbacks, a pair of three-pointers – one each from Alex Santos (12 points) and Jordan Oliveira (nine points) and a traditional three-point play from Doherty.
And to make matters worse, Marlboro sank a three at the halftime buzzer although it looked like the shot was still in the shooters’ hands when the buzzer sounded.
“Yeah absolutely [it took the wind out of our sails],” Seaver said of the two buzzer beaters. “But if we hit a couple of other shots it would have been different but they hit shots and we didn’t.”
Similar to the first half, the Hawks came out and connected on their first three-point attempt after the break when Shane Cosquete hit nothing but net. But a cold spell hit the Hawks again.
“I think when we didn’t hit shots we started to get frustrated and that kind of turned into what the final score indicates,” Seaver said.
Milford missed their next three shots and had a pair of turnovers before Sailor found the bottom of the net for two. And on the other end, the Hawks’ defense was still playing well, limiting the Panthers to 10 points while both Fraioli and White had blocks.
But the Panthers came to life over the final two minutes of the third. Marlboro dropped 11 points over the final 2:27, including a pair of threes and a pair of transition buckets.
“They play a zone…they played it all year, they played it tonight…you have to hit your shots against the zone,” Seaver said.
Marlboro led 55-31 after three.
Zach Tammaro (nine points) hit an early three in the fourth to cut it to 19, and connected on another triple with three minutes to go but Milford wouldn’t get within striking distance.
The Hawks lose seven players to graduation, including Kelley – a four-year player.
“He’s been with me for all four years. He was one of the main guys in turning this program around, going from 2-18 four years ago to WPI tonight. I love the kid and I’m going to miss him.”
Milford boys basketball finishes the season 13-9.