The task was daunting. The trip was taxing. And the outcome wasn't pleasing.
But given all that, the Islanders boys basketball appearance at their first district tournament in two years was not such a bad thing.
The last time the Islanders made the end-of-season trip, they went to Ellsworth where they faced Central Lake, who finished the season ranked 18th in the state.
This year the trip took them to Northport at the tip of the Leelanau peninsula where their opponent was the 16th-ranked Leland Comets. Ah, the beauty of the blind draw.
The Islanders played hard, they played fair, and they played right to the final buzzer. Yet in the end, Leland, like they did in all three of their district championship run games, prevailed. Big. The final score was 79-42.
Brenden shoots.......Bryan strong attack.....Dan in the air
Normally, there's little to be proud of in such a one-sided decision. But let's look at this one more closely.
In their three tournament contests the Comets won by an average of 42 points. Against the Islanders the difference was 37. Neither of the other two victims scored over 40 points – host Northport managed 31 in the tourney opener; Lake Leelanau St. Mary's netted just 28 in the final.
The Islanders outscored the Comets 12-9 over the game's final quarter. They held the taller, more experienced Leland team to just two points over the final four minutes of the first quarter. So it's not like they weren't on the court.
The difference was due to two factors: Leland's height – the Comets have six players 6-2 or taller; Leland's defense has forced 22 turnovers on average each game – the Islanders committed 21 giveaways in the first half.
Seven early Islanders turnovers helped Leland make a 15-0 run early in the opening quarter. Another such run occurred in the second stanza as Islanders turnovers keyed a 17-2 Comet streak.
Dereck boards......Eric aims.......Kevin down low
“We turned the ball over so much in the first half we destroyed ourselves,” said Islanders coach Dan Martell. “It's just what we talked about not doing.”
Midway through the third quarter Leland's slam-dunking leader, 6-4 junior Marcus Whittaker, put the Comets up by 40 with a definitive slam in the midst of his Islanders defenders to start a running clock situation.
“We're just not used to that,” Islanders senior Eric Albin said of the Comets game level. “The size, the competition, the pressure, the speed, all of it.”
Patrick in trouble
Leland coach Jason Stowe, looking to celebrate the 20th anniversary of playing on Northport's state championship team by leading the Comets to the same goal, was impressed with the Islanders effort. “I thought they played very hard and smart basketball,” he said. “Considering the talent we have this year I thought the Islanders played very well.”
Coach Martell concurred. “The boys played their tails off and they gave everything they had. I can't fault our effort. We just don't play that kind of competition.”
The Islanders wrapped up the season with a respectable 10-5 record.