Marco Island Academy’s terrific senior trio of Kevin Barry, Johnny Watt and Kyler Howard got to say goodbye to the home crowd Thursday night, February 4, with a dramatic come-from-behind win over a scrappy Donahue Catholic team who was determined to spoil the Rays’ dream of repeating as Paradise Coast Athletic Conference champs. When the dust settled, MIA celebrated a 66-61 win.
“They played very well,” MIA head coach Travis Barry said. “Their coach has learned from playing us twice this year. I was very impressed by their coach and their team. I thought they played very poised on offense and very aggressive on defense. So, I hand it to them.”
MIA had dominated Donahue Catholic in their previous two games this season, cruising to 80-52 and 57-43 wins. But Donahue Catholic improved as the season wore on. And they specifically improved their ability to handle MIA’s full-court press.
“It was well-played at both ends,” Donahue Catholic head coach Mark Jahnke said. “We made a lot of improvements. A lot of strides. I was pleased with our performance. We measure ourselves against these guys. They’re the conference champs for a good reason. We knew we wanted to measure ourselves against the best. This is the game we had in our sights all season. Couldn’t quite see it out but we gave them a heckuva run. Their press killed us last time. We worked on that. I was proud of our guys for the improvements they made. We were able to respond well to that pressure.”
“I think it was no secret we were going to press them,” Barry said. “So, I just tried to turn it into a little bit of a track meet. They didn’t handle it well last time. They definitely learned and got better at it. I thought over time it would wear ‘em down. Our press is just a continuous sprint.”
Donahue Catholic jumped to an early 16-7 lead and had the Rays staggering. It wasn’t until late in the first half that the Rays were able to take a 30-28 lead with 30 seconds left in the half. Both teams hit three-points in the final 30 seconds of the half to make it 33-31 in favor of the Rays at halftime.
Donahue Catholic came out just as strong in the second half and maintained a small lead through much of the half. With 2:54 left in the game, and his team down 58-54, Barry called a time-out.
“We were down four in the fourth quarter and I called a time-out,” Barry said. “I just told everybody to slow down and not lose their focus. I think we were trying to do it individually. Once we started playing together, we were able to pull it out.”
“I think it was a 9-0 run from when we were down four that turned it around. We just stifled them. We went to man-to-man because we didn’t think the press was doing good. They were spreading it out. I said, ‘they’re just going to run the clock out on us. We’ve got to go back into the press.’ So I told them, ‘I’m going to let you go back into the press one last time.’ Then we went on the 9-0 run in the press.”
“Kyler had some great steals, Joey Reisinger had some really good rebounds, and he took that charge,” Barry said. “Johnny had two three-pointers in that run. He dove on the floor, threw it to Kevin going to the hoop. It was all on that 9-0 run. It was just a blur.”
Barry credits his team for keeping their composure under pressure.
“When they got behind, they didn’t get down,” Barry said. ”Kept their chins up and figured out what they had to do to get back in the game. They pulled it through in the end.”
Barry got to coach his son Kevin for the final time. The senior sharpshooter went over 2,000 points in his Rays career.
“It’s kind of a little bittersweet,” Barry said. “He was 15 points shy of 2,000 points before this game.”
Kevin Barry scored 34 points in his final game as a Ray. Watt finished with 15 points and gave Rays fans a final look at his hustling all-court game, with seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. Howard finished with nine points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals.
MIA finishes at 17-6. Donahue Catholic ends up at 8-7.