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Girls survive third-quarter collapse
This season has been a move away from the past for the Mercer Island girls basketball team. The Islanders have developed a killer instinct this season against the low and mid-tier teams in 3A KingCo and have been competitive against the best squads in the league. But one element that the team can’t seem to break away from is scoring droughts.
Mercer Island beat the Saints 68-51, Wednesday, but a three-point third-quarter performance almost led to one of the biggest collapses in the program’s history.
“I was disappointed that they came out of the half so over-confident,” said Mercer Island coach Jamie Prescott. “We needed to be more prepared. I told them [Interlake] would come out aggressive.”
The Islanders earned that over-confidence during a dominant first half.
The Mercer Island defense was unrelenting, forcing five turnovers during the first two minutes of the game. Islander players shared the ball on offense and scored at will. Six different players scored during the first quarter alone, led by senior Holland Fleming’s seven points. Hannah Lilly’s steal and pass to Amanda Nield resulted in a no-look bounce pass under the basket, with Cloe Snethen finishing the play to give Mercer Island an 18-5 lead. A three-pointer by Lilly, four feet back from the line, gave the Islanders their biggest lead of the first half, 29-11. A quick time-out by Interlake stopped the Islander momentum. The gym went silent as the Saints’ head coach ripped into his players and slammed his clipboard on the hardwood floor.
The rant inspired Interlake, and they cut the lead in half by the end of the second quarter — all the while drawing fouls. Those fouls would come back to haunt the Islanders.
Mercer Island began the second quarter with three consecutive steals, but no points. Interlake began working the charity stripe while out-rebounding the Islanders. Shot after shot for Mercer Island began clanking off the rim, bouncing off the backboard, and some failed to make it to the hoop. Desperation set in for Mercer Island as Interlake climbed within a basket of tying the game at 42-39.
But after more than six minutes without a basket and a 13-0 run by the Saints, senior Janelle Chow picked off an Interlake pass and sprinted the length of the court for two points and a foul, halting the opposition’s momentum.
“I felt [the momentum shift],” said Chow. “It just changed everyone’s mood.”
The play accounted for Mercer Island’s only three points of the quarter. But Mercer Island scored 23 points during the second and fourth quarters of the game.
The Islanders held a slim four-point advantage heading into the fourth period. The Islanders sustained two huge losses during the first two minutes of the fourth period as Lilly — the second leading scorer in the conference — and Kate DaPron both fouled out of the game.
“I actually wasn’t worried because I know that this team is deeper than one player,” said Prescott.
The culture of sharing the ball returned to the Islander offense as eight different players scored for Mercer Island during the final period.
Fleming, playing with four fouls, pulled down six rebounds during the quarter to help lead the team.
“When she has confidence and relaxes, she can make some big plays,” said Prescott.
Interlake came into the game as the most fouled team in the league, and that stat did not change. One big element to the team’s comeback was a 33-5 foul-shot advantage with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.
By steal and pass contrast, Mercer Island had 11 different players score during the game, while Interlake had just six. Chow led the Islanders with 15 points, and freshman Jae Shin had 10 points.
The Islanders head into the winter break with a 3-2 record in 3A KingCo, but the only two losses are to teams ranked in the top 10 in state.
The Islander team flew to San Diego, Calif., on Tuesday for the San Diego Invitational tournament. Mercer Island will be back in league action at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 2 at home against Skyline, who they trail behind by a half game for fourth place in KingCo.