Lutu lifts Islanders past Mount Si, Issaquah

Islanders Leroy Lutu (24) drives past the Mount Si defense at Mercer Island last Tuesday, December 4, 2007. -
Islanders Leroy Lutu (24) drives past the Mount Si defense at Mercer Island last Tuesday, December 4, 2007.
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Last year Leroy Lutu injured his hand playing football for the football team. This year the Mercer Island senior opted out of football during the fall to guarantee himself a healthy beginning to the basketball season. That plan has paid off — and then some.

Scoring a combined 43 points last week, Lutu led the Islanders past league rivals Mount Si and Issaquah, putting the team atop of 3A KingCo with a 3-0 record to start the season.

A diverse offensive push against a strong Issaquah team gave the Islanders a big win Friday, 59-57.

The Islanders didn’t look strong going into halftime, as they trailed by nine points. But a big surge in offense, allowing Mercer Island to outscore the Eagles 23-9, pushed the visiting team to the victory.

“Issaquah is a good team and expected a good game,” said Islander Evan Zahnizer.

But Lutu wasn’t the only offensive weapon for the Islanders, as two other players scored in double figures. Islanders Matt Schut (13) and Jack Gala (10) made double-teaming Lutu difficult to justify.

The week began Tuesday as Mercer Island hosted Mount Si, making a statement of focus. After a huge win to open the season, the Islanders avoided an emotional let-down, eventually defeating the Wildcats, 76-53.

The first half of the game looked more like a clinic in how to play defense by the Islanders, holding Mount Si to single digits during each quarter. Meanwhile, Lutu and Drew Sexton lit up the scoreboard like a pinball game. A long three during the first quarter by Sexton gave Mercer Island a 17-4 lead. The Islanders held the Wildcats scoreless during the first four minutes of the second period, and a miss by Zahnizer turned into a high-light reel put back by Lutu, pushing Mercer Island’s early lead to 26-6.

Lutu’s scoring partner, Schut, had a difficult first half. The senior took seven shots and finished five of them with either his face or backside eating hardwood.

“They were definitely rough-housing,” said Schut. “But ‘Coach P’ told me to calm down and let the game come to me.”

Mercer Island headed into the half with a 43-15 lead.

The third quarter was not as kind as the first half, as the Islanders were tired from running up and down the court.

“We got a little ahead of ourselves,” said Islander Sam Rasmussen. “We need to have the same intensity during the entire game. That is the one thing we really need to work on.”

Halfway through the quarter, Lutu picked the Wildcats’ pocket and seemed to cruise down the floor for a dunk. But the tired seniors’ lack of lift resulted in an embarrassing miss.

“I was dead tired, and I am sure that ‘Coach P’ will let me know tomorrow,” said Lutu.

The Islanders seemed to go flat on offense with the exception of Schut, who quit eating the gym floor and started knocking down jump shots. The senior finished with 15 points, Lutu with 23, Zahnizer 13 and Sexton 10. The four players in double figures are the most this season for the Islanders in one game.

With the win, Mercer Island and Skyline are the only two undefeated teams left in the league. The Islanders hosted Liberty on Monday but will not play again until Dec. 18, when they host Interlake. Mercer Island will travel to Skyline following the winter break on Jan. 2.

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