Team must step up in Lilly’s absence | Islanders will be without star player for most of the season

Junior Kate DaPron, left, and sophomore Hailey Gullstad are expected to lead the Mercer Island girls basketball team this season. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Junior Kate DaPron, left, and sophomore Hailey Gullstad are expected to lead the Mercer Island girls basketball team this season.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

The Mercer Island girls basketball team made it to the 3A KingCo title game last year and on to districts. But the road back will be bumpy, as one of the team’s best players, Hannah Lilly, will sit on the bench for most of the season.

“She is slated to be back for about the last six games of the regular season,” said Mercer Island coach Jamie Prescott. “Everyone is looking forward to that.”

Lilly tore her ACL during the spring and is progressing in her recovery. Taking Lilly’s place as starting point guard will be sophomore Hailey Gullstad.

“She knows she is our point guard now,” said Prescott. “She and Kate Dapron both are looking awesome. They have really picked up the slack.”

Gullstad and Dapron, a junior, both saw significant playing time last season.

Another player who will be expected to contribute a lot is Jae Shin, a sophomore. Her ability to shoot the ball was never in question last year, but other aspects of her game lagged behind.

“Her defense has improved 100 percent,” said Prescott. “She has really worked on it during the off season.”

Prescott said that the Mercer Island team’s defense as a whole has improved, and the team will be very aggressive. Causing turnovers and working off a fast break was one of the team’s strong points last year and should continue into this season.

“Our transition game will be good, and we are definitely able to shoot,” said Prescott.

Prescott said that one of the team’s biggest weaknesses is that it does not have a dominant post player in the mold of former Islander Georgia Gier.

One Islander who is used to being in the middle of things is Janelle Chow. She will be looked to for leadership as one of the only seniors on the team.

“Every year, we have worked to improve and accomplish more things,” said Chow. “This year is no different. Our goal is still to make it to state.”

Chow, who is one of the best athletes in the school and plays three sports, was a big part in helping the school’s volleyball team to its best placing at state in 30 years.

“Janelle always leads by example,” said Prescott.

Islander Chloe Snethen is another one of the team’s seniors who will be looked to for leadership.

The Islanders will lose three of the KingCo division top teams — Newport, Issaquah and Skyline — to the league realignment.

“We lost three really good teams,” said Prescott. “They have always been our gage as to where we are.”

Bellevue will still pose the biggest threat to the 3A KingCo championship, but Prescott knows that some of the new teams will be tough as well.

“Juanita struggled against 4A competition last year, but they have been improving,” said Prescott. “They could be really good.”

The Islanders have had a lot more girls playing basketball during the spring and summer months. Along with increased weight training and conditioning, the Mercer Island team has gone from the league’s doormat just a few years ago to one of the top teams vying for the league title.

“They have made a conscience effort to improve, and we are going in the right direction,” said Prescott.

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