Milford was on the verge of an upset victory Monday night in the opening round of the Class A district boys basketball tournament over host Walled Lake Western, but Delano Smith had other ideas.
The 6-foot-3 senior guard helped erase a six-point deficit by hitting three straight 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter and the Warriors went to earn a hard-fought 50-46 win over the Mavericks.
Smith finished with a game-high 19 points, while 6-4 senior guard Cody White added 18 as Western improved to 15-6 overall while advancing to the district semifinals beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 8 against Walled Lake Northern.
Senior guard Dominic Dawson paced Milford (12-9) with game-high 21 points, while sophomore forward Gunnar Gustafson added 11.
“It just changed momentum,” Gilbert said of Smith’s nine-point outburst. “It was the right swing at the right time for them.”
Despite the swing, Milford hung around down the stretch.
“We didn’t go away,” Gilbert said. “We had a shot at the end to tie the game. We were able to create some things to give us a chance. I’m just proud of our kids and the way that we battled. Our game plan was great. I thought we executed extremely well. You’ve got to tip our hat to Delano for making that nice little run and helping them pull out the win.”
Two Western free throws with only four seconds left helped seal the victory. The Warriors were 9-of-13 from the free throw line (69.2 percent).
Meanwhile, Milford was 15-of-26 (57.6 percent) from the foul stripe.
The first half was a low scoring affair as Milford led 16-13.
“We zoned them and they didn’t shoot the ball very well,” Gilbert said. “They just took their time and tried to take quality shots. It just slowed the game down a little bit, but they’re high powered. They’re a good team and they have some great athletes. Our game plan going in was to help on dribble drive and sit in a zone and see what they could do.”
Although the season ended, Gilbert was pleased with his team throughout the season.
It was the final game for Reid Sellers, Isaac Phillips, Zack Jones, Mitch Appleton, John McKolay, Jake Herrington, Brendan Perrett, Evan Johnson and Dawson.
“I’d like to give a shout-out to our nine seniors,” he said. “They set the tone for the program as far as moving forward.”