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Mercer Island boys take fifth at Sea-King | Prep boys basketball
Coming off a 77-32 loss to O’Dea earlier in the week, the Mercer Island boys basketball team had something to prove. They got their first chance Friday, beating Bainbridge 63-40.
Fighting for postseason survival in their second lose-out game in two days, Mercer Island beat Seattle Prep 48-41 Saturday, Feb. 22 at Bellevue College. With the win, the Islanders secured the fifth and final berth for the 3A regional tournament.
“That was not our playing style against O’Dea,” said senior Kaleb Warner after Saturday’s win. “We really had to show all these people out here that we can play with any team. We can play with the Metro teams, we can play with the KinCo teams. It don’t matter who’s in front of us, we can play with them.”
Seattle Prep opened the game taking an early 7-2 lead, but a free throw by Andrew Pickles and 5 first-quarter points from Warner gave Mercer Island an 8-7 lead. Warner picked up where he left off in the second, scoring 7 of Mercer Island’s 10 second-quarter points as the Islanders took an 18-13 advantage into halftime. Seattle Prep fought back in the second half, closing the gap to 31-30 at the end of the third quarter. But in the fourth, Jake Stenberg and Chris Lawler created some breathing room for the Islanders with key outside shooting to secure the win. Warner led the Islanders in scoring with 21 points, while Lawler contributed 10 points and Stenberg had 9 points.
Coach Gavin Cree said after Saturday’s game that the Islanders would enjoy the win, but he told his players before the game to play angry. “We felt like we were a little bit embarrassed of our performance last Tuesday and we had to prove who we really were in these last two games. We wanted to show the district that Mercer Island is a great team,” he said.
Cree said his team’s leading scorer Warner “absolutely played like an MVP,” playing with confidence and attacking the basket in the games against Bainbridge and Seattle Prep. Cree also said he thought senior captain Chris Lawler had his best game Saturday since returning from injury. Lawler, who said he’s struggled a bit since returning from a high ankle sprain, praised the mental toughness of his team.
“I think as a team we stay very together,” said Lawler. “Even on turnovers, even on mistakes, I think we come together and we kind of move on to the next play and flush it. Our coach always says ‘flush it, move on to the next play,’ and that’s what we did. We had a few turnovers in the fourth quarter and threw the ball away, but I think as long as we stay tough, as long as we stay together, we’re gonna have some success coming.”
The Islanders will have their work cut out for them, drawing undefeated reigning state champion Rainier Beach at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28 at Bellevue College.