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As the dust settles after Marco Island Academy's outstanding16-7 season that ended in the regional playoffs, team captain Cole Stretton has received the school's highest individual athletic honor yet.

When the Florida Athletic Coaches Association held their Southwest Florida basketball meeting Feb. 10, in Fort Myers, they honored the Rays sharpshooting junior point guard as the Class 2A Southwest Florida Player of the Year.

"Cole Stretton is an all-around basketball player," Rays head coach Roger Raymond said. "He is mentioned for his scoring, but his rebounding, steals and assists are among the tops in the county."

Stretton filled up the stat sheet every time out for the Rays, averaging 21.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3.1 steals per game.

"He could have scored 35-40 points points a game against some of the weaker teams on our schedule," Raymond said, "but he instead became a leader and helped other players get into the scoring column. He is a fantastic student, too."

Stretton led the county in scoring last season and finished a close second this year. During the season he eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career and finished the year with 1,326 career points.

With the majority of the roster returning, the future looks bright for Stretton and his teammates, who have won back-to-back district championships.

The Rays will move to Class 3A next season, where they will compete against some of the county's top teams, including First Baptist Academy and Community School.

"It will be a new challenge in a new era," Raymond said. "The team will be very competitive with Stretton, Patrick Michel and Brandon Estremera coming back as returning starters. Tyler Gresham and Brian Flynn, two part-time starters, are returning, too. Big Bon Deese will add to the team's interior presence."

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