Mercer Island student body support for girls basketball is abysmal

Thank you, Mercer Island band. If it wasn’t for you on Friday night, there would not have been any Mercer Island students in attendance for the girls basketball district playoff game, again. I thought that on a Friday night, with no other events scheduled, there would be at least a small group to show up and cheer for this great team. Nothing.

Even swimming and wrestling got stronger fan support during the regular season.

I have been very disappointed to see the lack of support from the student body for this team. During the KingCo title-clinching game at Liberty, I could not see a single Mercer Island High School student in the stands who was not a player’s family member. There was a large contingent of parents and middle school kids rooting for Mercer Island. But the lack of support from the student body for that game was heartbreaking.

This was not some run-of-the-mill league game. This was the first ever league title for the team — a team that has been around since 1973.

There were about 20 MIHS students in the stands at Bellevue Community College when the team defeated Liberty for its first ever KingCo tournament title on Feb. 20.

No flag dudes, no band, no crazy future frat kids chanting “start the bus” as the Islanders held on for the win. There was no flooding of the court by a sea of maroon and white-clad Islanders and hysteria for a team that has worked extremely hard.

The one big thing that I love about covering Mercer Island High School is the sense of tradition. But that tradition goes both ways.

Let me give you some perspective on just how big of a season this is for the Islander girls basketball team. When the program began in 1973, the high school had 14 sports teams. By 1987, all of those teams had won a league title. Girls fast-pitch softball, which was added long after girls basketball, was the only other program at Mercer Island High School — until two weeks ago — to be without a banner in the gymnasium.

But maybe the more important stat is what the other teams have done since girls basketball was added as a sport at the high school.

Mercer Island High School sports teams have won 142 league titles since 1973, but none for girls basketball. And that does not include club sports such as lacrosse or water polo, which win conference titles the majority of the time. Boys basketball has won 17 league titles and four state titles during the past 36 years.

Many Islanders might be wondering why they should watch girls basketball. I am not impartial; I love girls basketball for the pureness of the game. First of all, there is no dunking, a player must be able to shoot the ball. It also means that there aren’t any missed dunks, the most embarrassing play in all of sports. That reason is the same reason why I like the Mercer Island boys basketball team’s play. Team play and no showboats. But the girls game has a shot clock. It forces the action. A team can’t just hold the ball for two minutes with a five-point lead.

Bad high school girls basketball can be agonizing to watch. Clank, clank, clank, goes the bricks. While other KingCo teams can’t touch Mercer Island, the big bad wolf would surely eat them, as there are no brick layers on this team. This year’s team is a truly awesome collection of players, and they are still learning. Islanders Hailey Gullstad and Jae Shin are pure shooters. They combined for 51 points in one game earlier this season. Islanders Kate DaPron and Sarah Taylor give the team something that has been missing from the program: toughness inside.

There are many reasons to come out and see this team play. The biggest is that the team will probably make it to state this season.

In my opinion, this team’s only downfall is the fact that its ‘goal’ is to make it to state. But the goal is to win state. I know, that is semantics but it is also a state of mind. I have seen many good teams that say ‘we want to make it to state’ all season and then for whatever reason lay back when they get there and get blown away. That mind set also goes with its support system and years of living in the cellar of KingCo.

The girls basketball team at my high school won the state title for the first time my senior year. It is something that defines your era.

The student body should demand more from this team and the team should demand more from the student body. Demand that this team shoot for the stars, because the stars on this squad can shoot from anywhere on the court, and even from your seat in the stands.

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