Sports

Islander boys basketball rekindles two rivalries

Islander Thomas Ehlers is fouled while attempting to shoot against Juanita.  - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Islander Thomas Ehlers is fouled while attempting to shoot against Juanita.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

Jeff Patrick knows Mercer Island very well.

He played basketball for the Islanders and graduated from Mercer Island High School in 1984. He led one of Mercer Island’s chief rivals during the past decade as head coach of Issaquah High School. But Patrick’s newest move not only rekindles his relationship with his alma mater but may reignite the rivalry that Mercer Island has had with Juanita High School in the past.

“I’m old enough to remember that,” said Patrick. “I am hoping to re-establish that rivalry.”

The onus may be on Patrick to weave his magic with the Rebels after Mercer Island won the regular season opener on Friday, 62-49.

“It is a difficult transition,” said Patrick. “I had 10 years to develop Issaquah.”

Mercer Island’s victory was made a little easier by an unintended assist by Patrick.

Islander Robbie Taylor scored a three-pointer to end the first quarter, and Mercer Island went on a 13-0 run, due to an on-court foul and then a technical foul on Patrick for arguing with a referee.

The run left Islander Jon Poli with six points, Mercer Island with a 22-8 lead and Patrick silent on the bench.

But the run was not the only lopsided part of the game. Mercer Island finished with a 31-11 advantage on the boards.

“The kids did a great job on the boards,” said Islander coach Ed Pepple, who coached Patrick. “He is one of my favorite people. He’ll get them turned around.”

Islander Peter Zajac led in scoring with 17 points, while Poli had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Mercer Island is in the midst of rebuilding itself. But playing time for the younger athletes is starting to pay off.

“They are getting to experience the speed of the varsity game, and they are responding well,” said Poli.

The Rebels never got any closer than 11 points following the second quarter run, and did not fall any further behind than 15 points.

“This is just the first KingCo game,” said Pepple. “We wanted to get off to a good start, and we did.”

Islander Quinn Sterling had a big second half, including an emphatic blocked shot that brought the Mercer Island student body to its feet.

The number of spectators for both sides indicated that the rivalry may be back sooner than later.

Juanita spent the past 11 years at the 4A level and returned to 3A KingCo this year after the realignment of the leagues.

Some in the crowd admitted remembering the rivalry. The Islanders will travel to Juanita High School in late January.

But first, Mercer Island will take on Thomas Jefferson on Monday at 7:30 p.m. when the team will meet up with former long-time assistant coach Paul Lagerstedt.

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