The 2021 Men’s Islander Basketball season has undoubtedly been one to remember. Boasting an impressive 18-5 regular-season record that included an 8-0 in league play that earned them a San Diego City League title, the Islanders looked to keep their winning ways going in the opening round of the CIF DII Playoffs. The No. 2 overall seeded Islanders welcomed the No. 15 seeded Army-Navy Warriors with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line.
The Islanders got the scoring started thanks to a corner three-ball from No. 20 Zach Jackson and a pair of free throws from senior No. 3 Wayne McKinney. The Islanders also played extremely stout defense on the other end of the floor to go along with the early offense, as they forced three turnovers in the first four minutes of the first half. Despite the turnovers however, Army-Navy would still find offense, almost exclusively via the three-point shot, and keep the game tied at 9-9 with 2:40 left in the first. But the Warriors were not the only ones making it rain from beyond the arc, as senior No. 5 Alex Crawford made two three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to help the Islanders hold a 17-14 lead at the end of the first.
Early on in the second, it appeared the Islanders were on the verge of pulling away. To start, McKinney picked the pocket of the Warriors to point guard and took it in for a bucket and a foul. Another steal followed the three-point play by McKinney, who dished to the team three point sniper, No. 11 Nolan Reuter, who buried a three from the wing. Crawford added two more points after a layup to cap off the 9-2 Islanders run and give them a 25-17 lead with 6:11 to play in the second.
But to Army-Navy’s credit, they refused to roll over, as the visiting Warriors responded with a 9-1 run of their own and tie it at 26-26. But even when it appeared the Islanders were perhaps losing momentum, McKinney took matters into his own hands. As in the final three minutes of the half, the USD signee scored seven straight points and assisted on an unreal buzzer-beater shot by Crawford to give the Islanders the 38-33 lead heading into halftime.
The third quarter of Tuesday night’s game is perhaps where the Islanders struggled most. While Coronado came out of the gate hot offensively, thanks to buckets from No. 20 Jackson and McKinney, the same could not be said for the Islander’s defense. The Warriors buried a barrage of three pointers in the quarter, most of them from No. 5 Alexis Marmolejos and No. 33 Finnian McGonigle.
This wasn’t the first time the three-ball has given the Islander defense issues, as in the early stages of the season, the Islanders perimeter defense was closing out on three point shooters. Army-Navy’s three point display would net them a 49-47 lead; their first of the night, with 1:37 to play in the third. The Islanders briefly retook the lead after layups from Jackson and No. 23 Joseph Taylor-Pate. But Army-Navy hit yet another three-pointer at the buzzer, giving them the 54-51 lead at the end of the third.
Heading into the fourth, it was going to be interesting to see how the Islanders would respond; as they were just a mere eight minutes from a possible first-round upset. It felt like the Islanders just needed a spark, something to reset and refocus them.
The Islanders again tied the game thanks to an opening quarter three-pointer from Reuter, making it 54 all. But the Warriors responded again with two more three-pointers of their own, making it a 59-54 game with 5:48 to play. And just when things looked as if they were getting away from the Islanders, they got the spark that they needed. After a missed layup by McKinney, Crawford followed his fellow senior’s shot and put it back with a vicious one-handed slam giving him 20 points on the night; not only making it a one-point game, but also garnering a massive reaction from the Coronado bench and the Islander faithful in attendance.
Following the dunk by Crawford, the Islanders went on a 10-2 scoring run that was spearheaded by three-pointers from Jackson and Reuter and a pair of layups from McKinney who finished with a team-high 29 points on the night, to make it a 68-61 game with 1:25 to play. With time dwindling, the Islander’s defense came up with a big play of its own as Jackson drew a foul on an inbound play and gave the ball back to the Islanders. Coronado hit its free throws down the stretch and wrapped a bow around their hard-fought and well-earned 72-64 win.
The Islanders will now host No. 7 seed Westview in the quarterfinals this Friday as they look to advance to the CIF Semi-Finals.