Finding the groove

By Matt Phelps

Basketball in its simplest form has one rule -- put the ball through the hoop. Up until last Friday, the Mercer Island girls basketball team had struggled with that concept, shooting just 17.5 percent from the floor.

But a practice regimen of shooting drills paid off for the girls as they crushed the Sammamish Totems, 76-47.

``We shot for three days straight and it showed tonight,'' said Mercer Island head coach Jamie Prescott after the game. ``This is a good way to go into the (holiday) break.''

The team shot a solid 46 percent from the floor during the route that saw multiple Mercer Island players get into the shooting frenzy.

``They just need to knock a couple down early to gain some confidence,'' said Prescott.

The two leading scorers for the Islanders, Ellie Chapman with 21 and Mika Rothman with 17, looked locked in as they combined to bury seven three-pointers during the game.

``We have been pretty good with 3-point percentage this year but we have struggled to improve on the two-pointers,'' said Chapman. ``Tonight was good, all the practice showed.''

Mercer Island began the game slow but kept pace with the Totems through the first quarter as Rothman and Chapman combined to score all but one point for the Islanders. The frustration of the season started to show towards the end of the first quarter as a technical foul was called on a Mercer Island player. But the play seemed to fire up the Islanders as the second quarter was a different story scoring wise.

Islander Janelle Chow took the first inbound pass of the second period and raced up court, straight to the basket for two points. The play set the tone for the rest of the game. Seven Islanders put the ball through the net during the second period and Mercer Island built a 35-27 lead at half time.

``I have told them that if they give the ball up for an assist they should expect to get it back later,'' said Prescott.

Islander center Georgia Gier and forward Meg Farra began to dominate the middle of the key. The tandem combined for 10 rebounds during the first half.

The duos play also neutralized the Totems' biggest threat, Danielle Fleischman. The 5-foot-7 forward began to look worn down during the second period and would score just 13 points during the game.

The third quarter was one of the best of the year for Mercer Island as they scored 21 points and shot 64 percent from the field. Chapman and Kelly Houtchens led the way with six points as the Islanders began to pull away with an 18-point lead.

The Islanders' aggressive style carried into the fourth period as Amanda Nield caught fire. Nield had hit a deep three-pointer during the second period that earned a gasp from the crowd as it passed through the net. But Nield saved her best for last scoring six points during the fourth period.

Farra fouled out during the beginning of the fourth period, but the Islanders kept up the pace all the way to the final minute. With 40 seconds left in the game, freshman Holland Fleming and Allison Stoney fought Totem starters for three consecutive rebounds on the offensive end of the floor. Fleming eventually got the basket.

The Islanders began the week with a 62-32 loss to Issaquah.

``They just get nervous,'' said Prescott. ``They have to work harder for shots against good teams.''

The Islanders will resume competitive play at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 16 at Mount Si High School.

``We are going to be practicing every day over break,'' said Chapman.

The Islanders have struggled during the first half of the season with a 2-5 record. But their 1-2 record in league play is the only mark that counts at the end of the season.

``The season started out really hard with 4A teams and some of the best teams in our league,'' said Rothman. ``We just have to get over our mental lapses and play like we did (against Sammamish).''

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