Payback for Bellevue

By Matt Phelps

The Mercer Island boys basketball team got back on track last week with consecutive victories following a stunning loss to Interlake Jan. 7.

The Islanders took out their frustration during a rivalry-fueled 76-49 blowout of Bellevue Jan. 11. Mercer Island hosted Liberty on Friday with the same result, 64-44.

``We were disappointed with (the game against Interlake),'' said Mercer Island head coach Ed Pepple. ``We didn't shoot the ball well and we felt like we gave the game away. We are two games down, so we can't afford to lose any more games.''

Against Bellevue, Noah Blakney had one the best games of his career for the Islanders as he picked the Wolverines' pocket all night long. The senior forward finished the contest with eight steals, seven assists and 26 points.

Mercer Island played its rivals close to start the game, finishing the first quarter with a slim 19-16 advantage. Blakney put on a show with four steals during the quarter, three of which led to fast-break points. The senior finished the first quarter with 10 points and Mercer Island finished the game with 16 steals.

``We knew coming into the game that we wanted to pressure the ball because our scouting report said that they don't make good passes,'' said Blakney. ``We always try to listen to the scouting report and I was just in the right place a lot.''

But the Islanders hammered Bellevue to start the second quarter and never let up.

The Wolverines scored first to open the second period of play. The problem was that they would only get one more basket from the floor during the next 13 minutes and 44 seconds of play. During that time, the Islanders outscored Bellevue 36-10, including a 22-2, run, with eight of the Wolverines points coming from the free-throw line.

During the second quarter, Blakney continued to burglarize the Bellevue passing game, picking off two more passes for coast-to-coast baskets.

``They just couldn't handle our pressure,'' said Alex Stuck.

Blakney got offensive help from Stuck, who hit a couple of jumpers and free-throws for six points during the quarter. Stuck finished the game with 12 points.

``The last two games, I have played horrible,'' said Stuck. ``I needed to prove it to myself I still have it. I have more confidence in my jumper now.''

Mercer Island held a 38-28 advantage at the half and the Bellevue frustration boiled over. Two technical fouls were called on Wolverine players during the second and third quarters, as the Islanders looked to avenge the football team's 68-0 loss during the fall.

``There was no way I wanted to lose this game after what they did to us in football,'' said Kael Kristof. ``We have already lost twice at home this year, we wanted to just shut them down.''

The third period was all Blakney and Kristof. The tandem combined for 17 points, but Kristof took over the role of cat burglar as he had two steals for coast-to-coast lay-ups.

``After a good second quarter, it would have been easy for them to let up and they didn't,'' said Pepple. ``They played even better during the third quarter.''

``We just did a good job of putting pressure on the ballhandler and finishing their passing lanes,'' said Kristof.

Mercer Island's biggest lead of the game came during the fourth period following two free-throws by Blakney, 69-35. The shots were the last by any starter for the Islanders. Bellevue attempted to make the final score more respectable with a barrage of three-pointers but the game was well over.

THE ISLANDERS' WIN over Liberty was fueled by Stuck and Kristof's 13 points each and a 33-12 run during the second and third periods.

Mercer Island traveled to Newport Tuesday (after Reporter deadline). But the biggest game of the year for Mercer Island will be 7:30 p.m. Friday when they host the 3A KingCo leading Eagles of Issaquah. The Islanders lost the first meeting of the year in Issaquah 58-55.

``Once in a while we lose focus,'' said Blakney. ``But we have improved as the season has gone on.''

The Eagles' Garrison Carr, who has been tearing up KingCo all season, scored 21 points during that game and will be a big test for the Islander defenders.

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