The first words out of the mouth of Milford Mill coach Homer Seidel were all too predictable last night after his team's 60-56 victory over host Glenelg.
"That was too close for comfort," said Seidel.
For the No. 9 Millers, erratic passing and overall sloppy play, combined with a solid, controlled effort from the Gladiators, nearly spelled disaster.
"We were out of control," said Seidel," whose team held a nine-point lead with under three minutes to play only to almost lose it in the final seconds.
"We didn't handle the ball well and we were trying too hard to make things happen. We were just banking on our athletic talent tonight."
Luckily for Seidel, the Millers have plenty of that.
Led by 6-foot-7 forward Blanchard Hurd, who had game highs of 24 points and 13 rebounds, Milford Mill was able to cover its mistakes by taking advantage of its obvious edge in size and athletic ability.
"For a second we were pretty scared," said Hurd, who had sprained his left ankle during Tuesday's practice and didn't expect to play last night. "We were getting too erratic and rushing."
The Millers (2-0) committed 20 turnovers in the final three quarters, including several in the game's final minutes that allowed Glenelg back into the game.
Led by Earl Frazier (13 points) and Kevin Curtin (11), the Gladiators (3-1) outscored the Millers 7-2 in the game's final 3:37, and got as close as 58-56 on a layup by James McKenney with 19 seconds to play.
After leading nearly the entire way, it took two free throws by Brian Whorley with five seconds left to seal the win.
"I was very pleased with our effort," said Glenelg coach Klaude Krannebitter. "But they killed us inside. Our game plan was to try and take away the middle, but we didn't do a very good job of that."
The Millers scored 18 of their 26 field goals from in the paint, where Hurd and Jermaine Dunn, both 6-7, gave them a distinct size advantage.
But defense was just as big a factor for the Millers, who used a harassing half-court press to force eight turnovers in the fourth .. quarter as they built an 18-12 lead. Their advantage grew to as much as 11 (26-15) before the Gladiators began to mount a threat.
They used crisp passing and good shot selection to score 10 of the final 12 points in the half, cutting the lead to 34-32. They then tied the score early in the second half before Milford regained its advantage.