The Marco Island Rays boys’ basketball team faced potentially their toughest rivals of the young season when they hosted The Village School of Naples Friday night at the middle school gym. What started as a back-and-forth contest, ended as a comfortable 73-55 win.
It was the third win of the week for the Rays, who traveled to Everglades City on Tuesday, December 10th and blitzed the Gators 67-27 and were on the road again in an 81-27 win at Mason Classical Academy.
The Village School match-up promised to be a good one with both schools holding similar wins over Donahue Catholic and Everglades City. In the early going, the contest looked the part as the Rays had a slim 11-8 lead after a low-scoring first quarter.
It was all tied up at 14-14 with 5:57 left in the second quarter. Village School pulled ahead briefly at 17-16 less than a minute later. Then the Rays went on their first of several runs of the evening and led 31-19 with 1:27 left in the first half.
Dom Moller, a senior who is closing in on a 1,000-point career with the Rays, got hot from beyond the arc in the second quarter, nailing three three-pointers and a long two. Kevin Barry, the team’s leading scorer, scored nine in the quarter.
The Rays led 36-21 at halftime, but The Village School made a run to open the second half, closing that gap to 36-26 with 6:29 left in the third quarter.
That’s when Rays head coach Travis Barry decided he needed to calm his kids down.
“They settled it down and got right back into it,” Barry said of his squad. He also gave credit to The Village School.
“That’s a good young team,” he said. “They’re well-coached.”
Village School closed the gap to 11 halfway through the fourth quarter, but the Rays put their foot on the gas and soon enjoyed at the 20-point cushion.
At that point, Coach Barry began to substitute more liberally, and the Rays were able to maintain a comfortable lead the rest of the way.
Kevin Barry led all scorers with 35. Moller concluded his hot-shooting night with 20, including six three-pointers. Kyler Howard was the other Ray in double figures with 10.
The win over a scrappy Everglades City team exemplified how far this Rays team has come since last year when they won only five games all season.
“I feel like we’re more than one year better,” Coach Barry said.
The coach attributes the team’s camaraderie as a key reason for their improvement.
“They play, a lot of times, five nights a week at Mackle Park,” he said. “They’re playing sometimes for 2-3 hours. They’re runnin’.”
All that playing together has improved their teamwork—and it’s paying off in wins.
“They got better fast,” Coach Barry said. “They’re like brothers. These guys are all friends. They all ride together; they do everything together.”
The Rays started and finished strong against Everglades City, who is rebuilding after losing two top players from last year’s squad.
The Gators play a physical brand of basketball, but had trouble putting the ball in the hoop against the Rays.
Kevin Barry, the coach’s son, again led the way for the Rays at Everglades City, scoring 27. Kyler Howard was the only other Ray in double figures with 14.
Kenny Smallwood was the leading scorer for Everglades City with 12.
The Rays head will be on the road for the rest of 2019, including a trip to Vero Beach for the D5 Alive Holiday Tournament in Vero Beach, December 26-28.
Coach Barry is excited about the prospect of getting team leader Johnny Watt back in action in time for the tournament. Watt has been sidelined for the beginning of the season with a hand injury.
“You’re always kind of nervous with Johnny Watt’s not on the court,” coach Barry said. “I call him ‘Mr. Triple Double,’ because he’s gonna get double digits on all three, passing, rebounding and scoring. He does all the hard stuff. He’s big and he’s strong and he’s fast.”