Girls advance, beat Cleveland with experience

Islander sophomore Jae Shin hit three three-pointers during the first half against Cleveland at Bellevue Community College on Friday. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Islander sophomore Jae Shin hit three three-pointers during the first half against Cleveland at Bellevue Community College on Friday.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

The Mercer Island girls basketball team is a young squad with just one starting senior, one junior and three starting sophomores. But that limited experience proved to be the difference on Friday at Bellevue Community College as Mercer Island defeated Cleveland, 53-45, during the second round of the district playoffs.

“We knew that we had to control the game,” said Islander senior Janelle Chow, who finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. “We watched a tape on them, and we came in prepared.”

That preparation led to an early advantage for the Islanders following a 4-0 Cleveland lead.

A Hailey Gullstad three-pointer coupled with a Chow steal and basket erased the lead.

“We knew that the transition and getting steals could work,” said Chow.

The game was fast-paced during the first four minutes. But both teams had a tough time putting the ball in the basket despite neither team earning a foul. The referees began calling the game tighter, and Mercer Island earned seven fouls during the final four minutes of the first quarter.

The fouls did not stifle the Islander offense as a Chow three-pointer and a put-back bucket by Heidi Black gave Mercer Island a 12-7 lead, which they would build on during the second quarter.

Islander Jae Shin had the hot hand during the second period, hitting two consecutive three-pointers. A put-back by Chow on Shin’s third consecutive three-pointer attempt gave Mercer Island a 23-12 advantage that they rode until the half.

The teams played close through the end of the third period, when Chow went up for a three and was fouled. The shot dropped through the net, and the senior put the foul shot in for a rare four-point play.

The sequence resulted in a 44-28 lead, the Islanders’ largest of the game.

But a last-second shot by Cleveland cut the lead and gave the Eagles momentum that would prove costly for the Islanders.

That shot, along with many others, gave Cleveland an 11-2 run, cutting the lead to seven points, 46-39. Mercer Island scored only three points during the first 6:12 of the final quarter, as the Eagles got back into the game, 47-41.

“Last year, I would have been concerned because we had trouble finishing,” said Mercer Island coach Jamie Prescott. “But we have done a great job with that this year.”

The only thing between Mercer Island and a complete collapse was junior Kate DaPron, who scored six of her 10 points during the quarter. DaPron also finished the game with 10 rebounds for a double-double.

“Our players were drawing double teams and then they found me under the basket,” said DaPron. “They put me in a great position.”

DaPron’s effort held the line for Mercer Island at six points. Two key free throws by Islander Sarah Taylor sent Mercer Island to the semifinals against Holy Names on Tuesday (after Reporter deadline).

“We knew we would be undersized, so rebounding would be key,” said Prescott. “Kate and Sarah did a great job boxing out.”

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