The Milford Mill boys basketball team has set a lofty standard in Baltimore County, winning the past four county championships and claiming two state titles in that span.
The foundation begins with playing smart and consistent basketball. The No. 5 Millers take care of the ball and find open teammates on offense, they rebound well at both ends and their defense has a knack for blocking shots.
Together, those strengths leave opponents with little margin for error.
On Wednesday night, New Town became the latest team to learn that. The host Millers set a fast pace with a dominant second quarter and never let the Titans fully recover, coming away with a 62-46 win.
Senior guard Bruce Watkins led a balanced offense with 19 points, and sophomore guard Justin Jenifer added 14, Junior forward Allen Costley (12 points) and senior forward Artice Jackson (six points) accounted for most of the Millers' eight blocked shots at the defensive end.
Milford Mill improved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Baltimore County, while the Titans fell to 3-1 and 1-1 in league play.
"We just knew we had to come out here and play hard, make a statement because we were coming off a loss against Bowie," Watkins said. We just have some great athletes and we get great crowds, so we come out and play hard all the time."
Leading 17-2 after one quarter, the Millers had it all working in an efficient second quarter that provided a 39-22 halftime lead. Jenifer took over midway through the quarter with consecutive 3-pointers, and when he found Costley inside for a powerful dunk, the Millers held a 29-18 lead with 4:08 to play.
They closed the half with the six straight points in the final 1:09 — Watkins hit a 3 and then Costley followed on a miss with 10 seconds left for the 39-22 advantage, Milford Mill's biggest of the night.
"We just started to hit some shots. We were able to penetrate and kick out, and Justin and Bruce having the ability to make those shots from the outside gave us that gap that we need to get the run we were looking for," first-year coach Mike Silverman said.
New Town had good moments, just not enough to stay close at the end. Guard Daniel Shand led the visitors with 16 points, and Justin Brown added 13.
Trailing 49-34 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, the Titans went on an 8-0 run, with Shand scoring four points and adding a nifty assist, to valiantly pull within 49-42 with 5:23 to play, but the Millers had the final say with Jenifer, Watkins and Costley scoring the team's final 13 points.
NT – Shand 16, Brown 13, Mack 3, Sherrod 9, Jacob 1, Hamler 2, Smith 2. Totals: 18 8-16 46.
MM – Watkins 19, Costley 12, Jenifer 14, Jackson 6, Williams 6, Cooper 2, Lee 3. Totals: 22 13-18 62.
Half: MM, 39-22Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun