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Islanders fall to Bellevue in 3A KingCo title game | Prep boys basketball
It was a tale of two quarters for the Mercer Island boys basketball team. One moment it was theirs, and the next it was gone.
After a scoring outburst in the third quarter, points were hard to come by in the fourth quarter for Mercer Island, as the Islanders lost to conference rivals Bellevue 55-49 in the KingCo 3A tournament championship Thursday, Feb. 13 at Bellevue College. It was the Islanders' third loss to Bellevue this season.
After the game, coach Gavin Cree praised the Islanders' effort in the tournament title game.
"They played hard, and they deserved to win," he said. "They left it all out there on the floor and there's nothing to be ashamed of. It hurts to lose to your rival in a close game that you could've had, but we're in a good position. We're in almost the same position we'd be in if we won the game, so we're feeling good about it."
Mercer Island led 13-7 after the first, but hit a scoring drought in the second quarter. Bellevue went on a 14-0 run before Chris Lawler ended the drought with a pair of 3-pointers. A buzzer-beating layup by Jake Stenberg cut the Islanders' deficit to two, heading into halftime down 25-23.
In the second half, Lawler picked up where he left off with another 3-pointer to kick off a high-scoring third quarter for Mercer Island. Kaleb Warner exploded for 14 points in the quarter, including three 3-pointers, the third putting the Islanders ahead 43-33. Bellevue closed out the quarter cutting the deficit to 45-38.
But in the fourth, the shots stopped falling for Mercer Island. Bellevue opened the quarter with a 7-0 run. Two Bellevue free throws gave the Wolverines a 49-47 lead, which they never gave back. With the Islanders having to foul to stop the clock, the Wolverines drew trips to the foul line to seal the win. Kaleb Warner led the Islanders in scoring with 17 points. After the game, Warner and Andrew Pickles earned All KingCo first team honors.
Cree praised the Wolverines after the game, saying they've earned the number-two ranking in the state for a reason. He said the Islanders had opportunities down the stretch, with breaks not going Mercer Island's way in the fourth quarter. Going forward to the Sea-King District tournament, Cree said his team's focus would be to stay confident and know how good they can be.
"We were up ten on the number two team in the state, up ten in a tough game and had a chance to win," he said. "We're confident and we're going to get ready to face a strong opponent that we're capable of beating."
Mercer Island will take the 3A KingCo second seed in the Sea-King District tournament. The Islanders will face the winner of the first round game between Nathan Hale and O'Dea at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18 at Ingraham High School.