There weren’t too many people that expected Milford High to stick close to Polytech in the Henlopen Conference boys basketball championship game.

There weren’t too many people that expected Milford High to stick close to Polytech in the Henlopen Conference boys basketball championship game.
Maybe the Buccaneers’ coaches, players and some parents thought they had a chance – but that was probably about it.
After all, Polytech has been called the No. 2 team in the state by several publications and had not lost to an in-state opponent all winter long.
However, Milford shocked the state’s basketball community as it took until the very last second before a winner was decided between Polytech and the Buccaneers as a Henlopen Conference boys basketball champion was finally crowned.
It was Polytech senior guard Ricky Hicks who sank a pair of pressure-packed free throws with just 0.7 of a second left to help lift the Panthers to a tense 47-42 victory and the Henlopen crown in front of a raucous sold-out gym at Dover High on Friday night.
“You can’t ask for anything more than being in a tie game with the No. 2 team in the state late in the game and it comes down to a few plays here and there,” Milford coach Bob Spath said. “[Polytech was] able to get to the free-throw line quite a bit and took advantage of the double bonus down the stretch and I think that was the difference in the game.”
Hicks led the way with 15 points and senior Devaughn Mallory chipped in with 12 for Northern Division champs Polytech (20-1), whose only regular-season loss came to Garnet Valley.
The Panthers’ 47 points matched the third-lowest total for a winning team in the Henlopen boys championship game, which dates to 1962.
However, that still turned out to be enough to help Polytech win its third conference championship in boys basketball over the last five years.
Spath, who was named the Henlopen Conference Coach of the Year, didn’t allow his Buccaneers to get too low following the defeat.
That’s because Milford, the No. 16 seed in the DIAA Boys Basketball State Tournament, hosts a first-round home game against 17th-seeded Delcastle tonight at 7 p.m.
“All the way from the beginning from my very first meeting [with the team] was to prepare ourselves to peak around tournament time and this was a good warm-up for us,” Spath said. “In reality, this was a warm-up and it’s a forgotten game when you make a good deep run in the playoffs.”
Polytech obviously felt the heat of what Spath called a “warm-up.” The Panthers, who trailed 27-19 going into the fourth quarter, sank 13 of 21 free throws in the final quarter to help them overcome Milford.
Polytech pulled to within 35-34 of upset-minded Milford following Juwan Gray’s 3-pointer with 2:54 remaining. They tied it on a free throw by Mallory and took the lead 37-35 on an inside bucket by Mallory.
Though Polytech never trailed again, the outcome remained in doubt even after Mallory slam dunked with authority off an assist by Hicks that put the Panthers up 43-39 with 48 seconds remaining.
Milford never gave up and pulled to within one on Son Martinez’ baseline three-pointer that cut Polytech’s lead to 43-42 with 16 seconds to play.
However, the Panthers remained cool under fire, and Gray and Hicks combined to go 4-for-4 from the free-throw line over the final 13.6 seconds to seal the win.
Henlopen South winner Milford (12-9) had a chance to tie it in the closing seconds but could never manage to get a clean shot off before Hicks iced the win with his clutch free throws.
Milford now sets its sights on the state tournament.
“It’s nothing but a confidence booster for us to be so close in a game like this and know that we can play with the No. 2 team in the state,” said Spath. “We draw the No. 1 seed if we win the first round, so we have to have these kinds of experiences to build upon.”