Boys take second in Calif.: Islanders lose to tourney host, return to face Skyline tonight

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There is nothing like a home-court advantage. That idea is taken to the extremes in high school basketball when the opponent has to travel 1,000 miles.

The Mercer Island boys basketball team finished second in the Atascadero Classic in California, as it lost to the host team 61-55. The loss came despite a third-quarter comeback and total domination during the first two games of the abbreviated tournament.

The Islanders fell behind during the first half on Friday, scoring just 10 points in each of the first two quarters against Atascadero. A 33-20 half-time deficit looked insurmountable for the sluggish Islanders. Good ball distribution by Mercer Island gave it a six-point advantage during the third period, but Atascadero was able to hold off the run during the fourth period and hold on for the championship victory.

Islander Matt Schut led the team with 10 points but Trevor Fulp (9), Leroy Lutu (8), Sam Rasmussen (8) and Drew Sexton (8) were all within a basket of double figures for the game.

The Islanders played Paso Robles Thursday, which is just up the road from Atascadero, during the semifinals and the outcome was drastically different. Despite falling behind by one point to finish the first quarter, Mercer Island held Robles to single digits during each of the final three quarters. A 22-point outburst by Mercer Island during the second period set the tone for a dominating 67-35 victory. Lutu was the game’s high scorer, pouring in 21 points, while teammate Fulp added 18. Schut also finished the game in double figures with 13 points.

Mercer Island began the tournament on Wednesday and flexed its muscles with a 78-39 thrashing of Santa Maria of California. A 29-10 second quarter pushed all hope for a competitive game out of the arena. The game became a defensive struggle during the second half but Santa Maria still struggled to keep up, scoring just five points during the third period. Schut led all scorers with 19, while Lutu lit up the scoreboard with 13 points. But the most impressive thing for the Islanders was their ball distribution as 10 players scored for Mercer Island.

The tournament marks what should be the beginning of the second half of the season. But weather related school closures have forced so many games to be postponed, the Islanders have played just a handful of contests thus far.

Mercer Island gets back to the hardwood tonight as they host Skyline for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off. Mercer Island will have a home meeting with Bellevue on Tuesday and a game against Newport 7:30 p.m. Friday.

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