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Exactly how they Drew it up
Biggest game of Sexton’s career puts MI in driver’s seat for KingCo
By Matt Phelps
Mercer Island Reporter
Mercer Island senior Drew Sexton has never been the tallest or biggest player on the court. Last year he was nearly invisible on offense in scoring. It is amazing what a little confidence will do.
Sexton led the Islanders to one of their biggest victories in the last five years by scoring 24 points, including four three-point shots, defeating the Wolverines 63-51 at Bellevue High School on Jan. 8.
“He started out as the runt of the litter,” said Mercer Island head coach Ed Pepple. “He probably worked harder than anyone during the offseason. He has been a real joy.”
The standing-room-only crowd, 40 percent of which was rooting for Mercer Island, cheered and jeered with every play. As hot as the crowd was, Sexton was hotter right from the start as he scored nine points and collected three rebounds during the first quarter to boost Mercer Island to an early 11-4 lead. Bellevue came back within three before the second quarter, but never any closer.
Sexton’s two three-pointers during the second period were matched by teammate Matt Schut’s six points. Schut took some pressure off of Sexton, making it tough for Bellevue to double team the hot hand. Schut finished the game with 12 points and five rebounds.
On the defensive end of the floor, Islander Sam Rasmussen had one of the best games of his career with four blocks during the game that sparked the Mercer Island faithful.
“As the season has progressed, we have all started to play together,” said Rasmussen. “We have all been playing great defense. It is great to have a crowd like this, and we got them on their feet.”
Sexton’s performance was one of surprise. It also came at the best possible time, as Mercer Island’s leading scorer, Leroy Lutu, struggled during the first three quarters. Lutu missed his first four shots of the game and had just one basket in the first three quarters. By contrast, Sexton seemed to make every shot he took, finishing the first half with 15 points.
“I am not afraid to say that this is my best game,” said Sexton. “But to have it at Bellevue is awesome.”
Despite the fact that Bellevue seemed to continuously get knocked down, including a seven-point deficit just before halftime, it kept battling back.
Two Sexton free throws gave Mercer Island a 10-point lead, 34-24, halfway through the third period. But a 10-2 run by the Wolverines ignited the crowd, pulling Bellevue back within a possession of the Islanders.
Islander Paul Morse took control of the Islander offense to start the final quarter of play, at one point driving the lane and scoring without being touched despite being in a half-court offense.
“He was the unsung hero tonight, and Sam [Rasmussen] was a warrior,” said Pepple. “We were undersized at nearly every position.”
Rasmussen finished the contest with seven rebounds, four blocked shots and eight points.
Lutu finally emerged from his offensive slumber during the fourth quarter, scoring 10 points and ending any chance for a Wolverine comeback.
“We knew it would be a packed house and a close game,” said Schut. “It’s all about poise and control.”
Mercer Island won the first meeting between the two schools at Mercer Island High School, 64-57. That game was highlighted by Bellevue’s fourth-place ranking in the state and missing one of its star players, junior Alex Schrempf.
Mercer Island crushed the Totems on Friday, 81-47, at Sammamish High School as Lutu and Schut led all scorers with 20 points, while Schut reached double figures with 11 points.
With the wins, Mercer Island completed a season sweep of rival Bellevue and pushed its regular season record to 9-0. Mercer Island is now in the driver’s seat for the 3A KingCo title with a two-game lead on Issaquah, Bellevue and Skyline, all teams that they have already defeated this season.