FELTON — When it comes to Milford-Lake Forest match-ups, extra motivation isn’t typically needed. Especially when it’s a DIAA tournament game.
But the thought of Tuesday night’s game potentially being the final one of her high school basketball career provided Milford senior Rajene Bowe with a little extra boost.
“I didn’t want this season to be done,” Bowe said. “This is my senior year, and the last time I’m ever going to play basketball with these girls. I just kept thinking I didn’t want this season to be over with.”
In a 57-49 Milford victory over the No. 16 Spartans, Bowe led the way in scoring with 22 points. The eight-point victory for the No. 17-seeded Buccaneers sets up a second-round Thursday night match-up with the tournament’s top team — No. 1 Ursuline.
“Outstanding,” Milford head coach Leona White said. “My girls played well together, it was excellent team ball. They ran the offense, they played defense, they did everything right tonight.”
Milford led the scoring off with early baskets from Tayeler Duffy and Bowe, putting the Bucs ahead 8-3 in the first 2:23 of the opening quarter.
The fast start forced Lake head coach Trenita Shields to burn a timeout less than three minutes into the game.
Lake Forest took its first lead of the game with 40 seconds left in the first quarter, with senior Nicole Scott netting two of her four first quarter points on a fast-break lay-up to take the 12-10 lead.
A lay-up from Milford junior Lameisha Bailey 20 seconds later knotted the game up at 12 points apiece to finish the first quarter.
Lake senior Mya Maddox opened the second quarter with her second of three three-pointers of the game, but back-to-back lay-ups from the Bucs put Milford back on top for good.
Milford’s 27-24 halftime lead quickly turned into a rout by the end of the third quarter.
In the final 5:55 of the third quarter, Milford outscored the Spartans 17-6. The Bucs’ 20-point third quarter included two crucial three-pointers from senior Kiarra Brittingham and five points each from Bowe and senior Jameshia Baker.
The Bucs took a 47-33 lead into the final eight minutes of the game, eventually fending off a late Lake Forest comeback attempt.
Milford led by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter, holding onto a 51-34 lead with 3:54 remaining in the game. But a quick 6-0 run forced coach White to take her first timeout of the game at the 2:56 mark.
“I was getting a little nervous,” coach White said of the final four minutes. “They got a little flustered with the press. They’ve seen presses before so they shouldn’t have gotten flustered. They knew what to do, but it just shook them up a little bit.”
Lake senior Arika Burrell hit a pair of layups at the 1:38 and :51 mark, respectively, to bring the Spartans to within six points (54-48). Free throws from Brittingham and Baker in the final 40 seconds sealed the victory for Milford.
Eight of Milford’s 10 fourth quarter points came on free throw attempts (8-for-15 from the line).
Maddox, in her final high school basketball game, led the Spartans in scoring with 15 points. Fellow Spartan seniors Scott and Burrell added 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Including Bowe’s 22, the Bucs had three double-digit scorers on the night. Brittingham scored 13 points, while Baker added 11. Baker went five-of-seven from the free throw line, including the final two of the game.
The celebration for the Lady Bucs will be brief, as they’ll jump right into preparations for the top-seeded team in the state.
“We know it’s the number one team, but that’s one thing about us, we never let down,” Bowe said. “We’re going to until the end.”
Second round tip-off at Ursuline Thursday night will be 7 p.m.