Sample’s go-ahead bucket leads Spartan boys past Bucs

FELTON — Jene Sample grabbed rebound after rebound in the second half Thursday night, but none of them were as crucial as his offensive rebound with 19 seconds remaining in the game.

The Lake Forest High senior leaped into the air, grabbed a two-handed rebound and laid in the go-ahead bucket of the Spartans’ 60-59 win over arch-rival Milford High.

“I didn’t really see anything,” a smiling Sample said of the play. “I prayed, I’m like ‘God, please just let me get this rebound,’ and then I got two hands and I just went up and made a shot.”

“That dude played like a man tonight,” Lake Forest coach Michael Starkey joked. “We always talk about two-handing that thing, and just to see him go up there like that, that was impressive. That’s what you are hoping for and expecting out of senior leadership.”

The win puts the Spartans (14-3, 12-1) in sole control of the Henlopen Southern Division Conference and avenges their 65-46 loss to the Bucs (12-5, 11-2) on Jan. 3.

A win over Woodbridge next Tuesday clinches the Southern Division for Lake Forest.

“That’s an unbelievable, quick and talented Milford team,” said Starkey. “I told our coaches, if we can just find a way to keep them in the 50s — they like to play in the 80s, and they can get 90 — but if we keep them somewhere in the 50s, I think we got a shot. And that played out tonight.”

Sample’s key layup broke a 58-58 tie and, after Milford made just one of its two free throw attempts with five seconds remaining, sophomore Nakiem Scott grabbed the game-sealing steal.

“My coach always tells us rebound first and when they shoot, first hit a body because if you hit a body the ball can bounce as much as it wants but if you get the rebound then you can just do what you want to,” said Sample.

Junior Jaysem Vazquez finished with a game-high 25 points, including 13 in the third quarter. Sample finished with 11 points.

“We are a tough team, a deep team, everybody can go,” Vazquez said. “It may not always show in the box scores, but everybody does a little bit and everybody can play.”

Kaheim Kimbrough-Roach recorded 18 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked four shots for the Spartans. The sophomore forward had already recorded double digit totals in points and rebounds by the halftime break.

“He’s Mr. double-double,” Starkey said. “He’s an impressive little sophomore. It’s hard for them both (Kimbrough-Roach and Sample) to go get them like that every night, so it’s nice to have two guys who can go get them.”

Milford senior Daniel Shockley put up a team-high 19 points, including seven in the fourth quarter. Fellow seniors Nick Sivels and Jaxson Turner added nine points each.

With that early January loss to Milford on their minds, Lake Forest made sure to get off to a quick start in front of the home crowd this time around.

“It’s been on my mind since Jan. 3, so I couldn’t get over it,” said Vazquez. “It’s been eating me, eating me alive, so I knew we had to get this one. Especially at home.”

In just two and a half minutes, the Spartans had already built an 8-0 lead and forced a quick Milford timeout with 5:29 on the clock.
Following Milford coach Lamarr Shorts’ timeout, the Bucs quickly jumped back into the game behind a pair of three-pointers from Sivels and Turner.

Turner later hit his second three-pointer of the quarter to knot the game 13-13 with 1:23 to play in the first period.

A Shockley layup with 46 seconds remaining in the first put the Bucs ahead for the first time in the game, 15-14.

Trevaugh Aiken, who finished with eight points, extended Milford’s lead with a layup 43 seconds into the second quarter.

The second quarter featured just two lead changes, but neither team pulled ahead by more than four points and the two sides took a 29-29 tie into the halftime break.

Vazquez came out of the break with a vengeance and took control of the game in the third quarter, scoring Lake’s first seven points of the second half and totaling 13 of the Spartans’ 17 points.

“I don’t have to do anything but try to calm that guy down,” Starkey said of Vazquez. “I’m always the one trying to settle him, but he loves this type of game and this type of stage. He just has that winning, something special, inside of him so it comes out in games like this tonight.”

“He just told us to stay consistent, keep playing our game and it was going to come. My team put me in position to do good,” Vazquez said.

Lake knew its six-point, 46-40, lead heading into the fourth quarter wasn’t safe. Even after the Spartans scored the quarter’s first three points to take its largest lead of the game.

Milford scored the game’s next seven points to pull to within two points, 49-47, with under five and a half minutes remaining.

The Spartans held the lead until back-to-back baskets from Sivels and Shockley pulled the Bucs to within 58-57 and a free throw attempt from senior Dion Warner knotted the game 58-58

It’s as close as the Bucs would come to successfully erasing the nine-point fourth-quarter deficit as Sample’s go-ahead bucket was just enough to pull away with the win.

“This game, we circled this game, it was very important to us. And all the hard work that we put in practice, it showed tonight,” Sample said.

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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