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Freshman, sophomore lead Mercer Island girls basketball squad
The Mercer Island girls basketball team entered the season on Wednesday without two of its top guards and facing one of the best players in the state. While the team could not stop Mount Tahoma’s Carrie Ojeda, who finished with 39 points, 16 rebounds and 10 blocked shots, the Islanders nearly pulled the upset, losing 62-59.
“Our girls battled back several times during the game,” said Islander coach Jamie Prescott. “We made some brilliant plays and some bone-headed plays.”
The most surprising performance came from Islander Heidi Black during her first varsity game. The freshman led the team with 18 points, 15 of them during the second half.
“I was definitely nervous,” said Black. “I wanted to push it my hardest and show that I want to be on the team.”
The Islanders began the game with a quick bucket and then gave up a 7-0 run to the Thunderbirds.
A jumper by Hailey Gullstad tied the game at 9-9, and the Islanders finished the first quarter with a three-point lead.
But Mount Tahoma dominated the second quarter. Mercer Island mounted a comeback during the third quarter, as Black shot back-to-back three-pointers to pull the Islanders within one at 35-34.
Ojeda continued her assault on the Mercer Island defense, as the Thunderbirds again pulled away. The six-foot senior earned most of her points at the free-throw line, making 20 of 26 free throws.
“She is really good,” said Prescott, who played against Ojeda in a summer league. “We did everything we could to put her at the line.”
But once again the Islanders came back behind Black. A long three by the freshman to start the fourth quarter gained some momentum for Mercer Island.
A fast-break basket — starting with a steal by Gullstad, pass to Sarah Taylor and lay-in by Kayia Balinbin — brought the Islanders back within three, 50-47.
The game stayed relatively close down to the wire, when Black hit a big jump shot to keep Mercer Island within one possession of its opponents, 62-59.
Black proved that she could play defense, as she forced a five-second call on Ojeda at mid-court and an ensuing turnover.
With 16.4 second remaining, Mercer Island had an opportunity to tie the game.
But a problem with a player’s uniform made her ineligible for the final few seconds of the game. Unsure of what play to run with all the confusion and an altered lineup, the Islanders drove to the hoop instead of going for a three, effectively ending the game.
“The kids got a little rattled by the change, and we have to know what to do in that situation,” said Prescott.
The Islanders defeated Bainbridge Island in a very high-scoring 81-77 victory Friday.
Mercer Island was led by Gullstad, who had a career-high 29 points. Jae Shin made her debut with 10 points, while senior Janelle Chow had 16.
The Islanders hosted Bothell on Tuesday (after Reporter deadline). Mercer Island will host Juanita on Friday to start the regular season.