Girls basketball ranked ninth in state | Team second in Calif. tourney, loses to Newport, beats Tahoma

Islander guard Chloe Snethen drives to the basket against Newport on Friday, January 2. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Islander guard Chloe Snethen drives to the basket against Newport on Friday, January 2.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

The Mercer Island girls basketball team went 3-2 over winter break, finishing second at the Surf N’ Slam tournament in San Diego. The team lost to Newport on Friday at home and beat Tahoma in overtime on Saturday. The team performance has left them ranked ninth in the state in 3A girls basketball.

“Every game, we have had a different leading scorer and they have worked and battled,” said Islander coach Jamie Prescott. “But we have to work on knowing what player is on and finding her.”

Islander senior Janelle Chow was the player with the hot hand on Friday, as she scored 13 of the Islanders’ first 15 points against Newport. But Chow only got two more shots before halftime, and a 13-12 lead turned into a 28-25 deficit by the start of the third quarter. But Mercer Island stayed close with the 4A Knights during the third as Kate DaPron scored five of her 11 points, leading the Islanders to a 42-40 advantage. The fourth quarter was a nightmare as the Islanders went seven minutes without a basket and Newport pulled away, eventually winning the game 59-48.

“The frustrating thing is that we were doing things tonight that we haven’t done all year,” said Prescott.

The team got back into its winning ways by defeating Tahoma, 78-68. The Islanders were led by Hailey Gullstad with 17 points, Jae Shin with 16 and Chow with 14. Mercer Island came out and dominated the first quarter, running up a 23-14 lead. But Tahoma stayed close and whittled away the lead, eventually tying the game during the third quarter. The two squads remained tied at the end of regulation, 62-62. But Mercer Island did something that it was not able to do against Newport: finish. The Islanders outscored their opponents by 10 points during the overtime to secure the victory.

The biggest step forward for the team came from its performance in the California tournament. It was the third consecutive year that the team competed in the Surf N’ Slam basketball invite, but its first time in the finals.

“We played pretty solidly,” said Prescott. “We had a lot of competition at the end.”

Mercer Island began the tournament with a 67-53 victory over Albany of California. Gullstad led the scoring with 19, as Shin contributed 15. The win put Mercer Island into the semifinals against Archbishop Prendergast of Pennsylvania, where Islander free throws and strong defense proved to be the difference.

“That second game was the most exciting, and we played well,” said Prescott.

DaPron made two free throws with no time left on the clock to tie the game at 50-50 and push the game into overtime. The extra period was a struggle of two tough defenses as only seven combined points were scored, but Gullstad made two key free throws with 6.9 seconds left to win the game.

Mercer Island drew a nationally ranked team during the finals, Upper Darby, also from Pennsylvania.

“They are a 5A school and have two DI guards,” said Prescott. “We played them well.”

The Islanders fell behind by five points during the first quarter but stayed close to their opponents through the first half. But an 18-9 advantage by Upper Darby put Mercer Island way behind. A 23-point fourth-quarter performance by Mercer Island was not enough, as the Pennsylvania team won 64-57.

“It is hard going into games blind and not knowing much about your opponents,” said DaPron. “But it showed us that we can compete with good teams.”

The Islanders will have their biggest test of the year on Friday when they travel to Bellevue High School for a 6:30 p.m. tip off.

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