MI Boys basketball season ends after O’Dea thriller

It came down to the final seconds of the game, but a missed 3-point shot ended the Mercer Island boys’ game against O’Dea and that loss ended the Islanders’ season. The final score was 57-56 for the Fighting Irish in the loser-out first round of districts.

In the last minute of the game, the Islanders closed the point gap to come within 3 points of the Fighting Irish. With 6.8 seconds left and the Islanders in possession, Parker Scott attempted a 3-pointer, which rimmed the edge of the hoop, before senior Kaj Sherman rebounded and scored two. The clock ran out before the Islanders had another chance to regain the ball.

“We played well enough in the second half to win the game, but we just ran out of time,” said head coach Gavin Cree. “It’s not ideal going into someone else’s gym for a playoff game, but that’s the situation we were in, and I don’t think it had a major effect. We had a nice crowd there. We have a lot of very supportive fans who were behind us all year.”

In the first minutes of the game, the Islanders took an early lead, 6-0, before O’Dea fought back to tie the game. From then on out, it was a battle for points and the lead until the last moment of the match. At the end of the first quarter, the Islanders were playing a frantic pace — so much so that head coach Gavin Cree could be heard telling those on the bench to take it easy out there.

“Before the game, we talked about just giving maximum effort. For both teams, it was a loser-out scenario, so we knew there would be a lot of emotion out there. We knew it would end up being a close game because each team had different advantages. Both teams were able to play to their advantages at different times in the game, and they were able to come out on top by a small margin. In the end, one team has to win. Our guys fought like warriors to make sure we came out victorious, but we fell just short,” said Cree.

Mercer Island looked to make a break away prior to the half, going on a scoring run with two minutes left in the second quarter ending the half up 35-26.

Going into the second half of the game Cree said the Islanders focus was on stopping the outside O’Dea shot, which was getting dangerous.

“We also wanted to slow down on the offensive end and make sure we got into our offense each trip down the floor. We did a much better job of executing those two phases of the game in the second half, and we were able to outplay O’Dea in the final two quarters,” said Cree.

Despite outplaying the home team in the last minutes of the game, the deficit couldn’t be overcome and the Islanders ended their season.

“We were all proud, but not satisfied with the way we finished the season,” said Cree. “It was hard fought, and with a few more plays we could have advanced past O’Dea. We would have like to be playing into March, but it didn’t happen for us this year. I want all our players to understand that if you work hard every day, have leadership, take accountability, play with enthusiasm and believe in yourself, you can accomplish great things. We proved this throughout the season.”

The end of the season meant it was the last game for this year’s seniors, a group Cree said will be sorely missed.

“Our seniors are all great kids ‚they will be missed,” he said. “I thanked them all for being a part of my first season as head coach. I’ll never forget it. We have a core group of returning players that are excited about getting better in the offseason. The coaches are really excited about what’s ahead. We are trying to solidify a championship culture here and I think we laid a pretty good foundation in year one.”

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