Marco Island Academy Rays outlast Canterbury in thriller, 68-64
Marco Island Academy coach Roger Raymond was concerned about how his team would play Tuesday night coming off a 21-day layoff, especially considering their opponents, Canterbury, had squared off against four quality opponents in the past week.
What he found was a team that responded well after knocking off some rust from the holidays and put together a solid 68-64 win in their home gym.
"That's a quality win. I'm very proud of the effort," Raymond said, "we came back from three weeks with no games – and that's not a good thing."
It wasn't a schedule Raymond had hoped for.
"We couldn't find a holiday tournament that made any sense," Raymond said in explaining his squad's inactivity during the holiday break. "And this team's been playing. They played Barron Collier strong. They beat Gateway, who beat us."
The Rays sputtered early, but found themselves just a point down at halftime, 30-29.
The second half found the teams trading the lead three times early before the Academy took a lead they wouldn't relinquish when captain Cole Stretton followed a three-pointer with a lay-up to make it 40-37 with 5:09 left in the third quarter.
The balance of the game saw the Rays managing to maintain a four point cushion – but never more than an eight point lead – until Canterbury nailed a deep three from the corner to draw to within 62-58 with under two minutes left in the game.
That's when Brandon Estremera stepped up. The 6-foot junior grabbed a key rebound and hit two free throws to make it 62-58. The next time down the court he hit a three-pointer to 65-58.
"He's young, basketball-wise," Raymond said, "but he hit the free throws and the big three at the end. The whole team did what they had to do."
Stretton scored 26 for the Rays to go along with 14 rebounds, five assists and two steals. Peter Servente scored 17 and grabbed five rebounds. Estremera scored 11. Preston Reese scored eight points and corralled eight rebounds.
The win improves the Rays' record to 8-3. Canterbury drops to 6-6.
Immediately following the game, Raymond was already looking forward to Friday's 7 p.m. home conference game against Everglades City.
"We've got a hard one Friday night. It's Everglades City. It's here. That's a huge game," Raymond said.
At home Friday night vs. Everglades City, 7 p.m.