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Boys bounced twice in KingCo
Team loses to Bellevue and Newport, still alive at Dist.
By Matt Phelps
Mercer Island Reporter
The Mercer Island High School boys basketball team played three games with three very different results last week. The Islanders played one of their best games of the year when they pulled a 62-52 victory over league champion Issaquah on Feb. 12. On Thursday, the Islanders played one of their worst games of the year as they were dominated by Bellevue 53-34 at Bellevue Community College in the first round of the 3A KingCo playoffs. The Islanders took on Newport Friday for seeding into the district tournament and lost a tight battle 55-53.
“We just need to find our groove again,” said Mercer Island junior Leroy Lutu, who led the team with 20 points against the Knights on Friday. “But we give Newport all the credit in the world. They played a great game.”
The game against the Knights was so tight that neither team led by more than five points during the contest.
Newport took a 12-10 lead during the opening minutes of the second quarter and threatened to open the gap wider. Islander Jack Gala tempered that run with three defensive rebounds and two free throws to keep Mercer Island within two possessions of the Knights.
Newport took a 27-24 lead into half time.
The Islanders began the third period with a flurry of offense. Islander Matt Schut’s drive to the basket and pitch out to a wide open Lutu resutled in the junior dropping a long two-pointer through the net. The shot gave Mercer Island a temporary lead of 28-27. The play was indicative of what was working for the Islanders on offense.
Late during the third period, Newport’s thievery of the Islander offense would prove costly for Mercer Island. A stolen pass set off a fast break for the Knights. A behind-the-back pass on the break resulted in an upended Newport shooter, two points, and a 39-34 advantage for the Knights - the largest of the game.
Mercer Island tied the game at 43-43, only to fall back behind at 51-46 with 2:43 left on the clock. But Lutu, who scored 10 points during the fourth period, brought his team back. A long two and then three-point shot tied the game 53-53 with less than a minute to play.
“I am proud of how they kept coming back,” said Pepple.
Newport held the ball for the final shot of the game. A Knight player eventually drove the ball into the paint, drawing a foul off a Lutu block for the game-winning free throws. Lutu let the officials know how furious he was before heading back to the Mercer Island bench. The Islanders got the ball with 6.4 seconds left in the game and another Lutu three-pointer fell shy of the basket.
“I got a good look at the end,” said Lutu. “I thought it was going in.”
One player that struggled from the floor during the game was Trevor Fulp, who finished the contest just 2-for-10.
“It was not his best shooting game but they won’t all go in,” said Pepple of Fulp. “He has hit some big shots for us this year.”
The team’s game against Bellevue was a quick one— just one hour and ten minutes long, as no Islander managed to score in double figures. Luke Sikma cut through the Islander defense for a game high 22 points.
The win against Issaquah ended the Eagles undefeated season and gave Mercer Island a second-place finish and a 13-3 record during the regular season, as Schut led his team with 18 points.
Lutu and Schut were named to the 3A KingCo all-conference first team, while Fulp was named to the second team for their play during the regular season.
Mercer Island played during the first round of the district tournament Tuesday at Mercer Island High School. With a win the Islanders will play tomorrow at Bellevue Community College at 8:15 p.m. and with a loss they will play tomorrow at Ingraham High School at 3 p.m.