Sports

Fifth-graders champions of ETL basketball league

Pictured in the team photo for the Islanders: front row, Jessie Fulp, Michael Petrie, Johnny Van der Velden, Peter Lopes, Josh Stenberg and Musseit M’Barack; back row, coach Tom Lepp, Peter Ernst, Eric Kim, Sam Nordale, Emerson Schulz, Sam Pugel, Anthony Scalzo and coach John Poli. - Contributed
Pictured in the team photo for the Islanders: front row, Jessie Fulp, Michael Petrie, Johnny Van der Velden, Peter Lopes, Josh Stenberg and Musseit M’Barack; back row, coach Tom Lepp, Peter Ernst, Eric Kim, Sam Nordale, Emerson Schulz, Sam Pugel, Anthony Scalzo and coach John Poli.
— image credit: Contributed

The Mercer Island fifth-grade team, coached by Tom Lepp and Jon Poli, capped off a very successful season in the Eastside Travel League (ETL) with three consecutive victories in the Gold Division of the ETL postseason tournament to earn the title of league champions. The tournament was held over the weekend of Feb. 28-March 1.

After finishing 13-1 in the regular season, the top-seeded Islanders squared off in their first game against the eighth-seeded Lake Washington Kangs. The Islanders wasted no time in showing how they earned the top seed, racing to a 25-7 lead after one quarter and then cruising to a 60-30 victory.

The second game was a different story. The opponent was the upstart Redmond Mustangs, who had given the Islanders a good battle two weeks prior. The game was close throughout as the teams scrapped their way to a 19-19 tie at halftime. Redmond took the lead momentarily in the third quarter before Mercer Island turned up the defensive pressure to recapture the lead and held on late to win, 44-38.

Sunday’s championship game matched the Islanders against the Liberty Vikings, the only team to have defeated MI in the very first game of the regular season. Mercer Island jumped to an early 16-7 lead after the first quarter, but Liberty rallied to within two points at halftime, 24-22. The game stayed close during the third quarter, but the Islanders maintained a small lead and entered the fourth quarter with a 39-35 advantage. In the fourth quarter, the Islanders once again showed why they were the No. 1 seed. The Islanders’ defense and team play wore down the Vikings, and the Islanders jumped out to a 10-point lead. Liberty did not go down without a fight, scoring six consecutive points to close within four late in the game. Mercer Island held on to win, 53-49. The victory was the 16th consecutive ETL victory for the fifth-grade Islanders team.

Next up for the Islanders is the ETL-Wesco showcase tournament in Stanwood the weekend of March 14-15. This “Ryder Cup” format tournament will feature the top four teams from each age division (fifth through eighth grade) of each league, competing to determine who gets to be called the strongest league.

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