The Marco Island Academy basketball team played three games in three nights. They came out of it with one win and two losses. But more importantly, they proved they belong.

“We played well,” head coach Roger Raymond said in summing up his feelings about his team’s rough three-game stretch.

They Rays hosted St. John Neumann, one of the top teams in the area, Wednesday night, after playing one of the top Class 3A teams in the state Tuesday night. By the end of the Neumann game, it was obvious that the wear and tear had taken its toll as Neumann turned a one-point lead halfway through the third quarter into a 70-57 final.

“When I told people what we were doing everybody was stunned,” Raymond said. “Nobody does that. We also played last Friday. They could have come out here tonight and just got totally blown off the island. But they didn’t.”

The Rays started strong against Neumann and their 7-foot, 1-inch center Abraham Makumator, racing to a 22-11 first quarter lead. But Neumann turned the tables in the second quarter, outscoring the Rays 15-6 to cut the lead to 28-26 at halftime.

The Rays played neck and neck with Neumann for much of the second half before the fatigue of playing back-to-back-to-back games appeared to take its toll on the Rays’ six-man rotation.

“I think they dug down deep and played a whale of a game,” Raymond said of his team. “They got a little tired there at the end. We started out strong and I think we showed that we can play with them.”

Cole Stretton led the Rays with 18 points. Brandon Estremera scored 16 and Tyler Gresham 14.

Next home game

The Rays, now 3-5, return home next Thursday, Dec. 17, when they host Everglades City.