Sports

Mercer Island girls basketball earns No. 2 seed to state after close battle with Holy Names

Hailey Gullstad (15) tries to get to the basket as she
Hailey Gullstad (15) tries to get to the basket as she's guarded by Holy Names Laura Sullivan (15) during the Islanders SeaKing district championship game.
— image credit: Joel Lilly / Contributed photo

After seven straight weeks of sitting atop the 3A girls state basketball poll, Mercer Island finally got its chance to see what the top team in the state looked like when it faced Holy Names Saturday night.

Holy Names made Mercer Island battle for every point in the SeaKing district title game, which saw the Cougars take the game with a 74-67 final score.

The loss gave the Islanders a No. 2 seed going into this week’s state tournament, which begins for Mercer Island this afternoon.

The Islanders had a rough first quarter against the Cougars from Holy Names Academy, going down 19-16 after the first eight minutes.

“We were rattled a little bit in the first half and we talked about settling down [at the half],” said Islander head coach Jamie Prescott.

The Islanders fought back in the second, chipping away at the Cougars‘ lead to end the half down by just three points, 32-29.

That three point barrier followed the teams into the second half, which forced both sides to find new ways to get to the basket. They ended the third quarter tied at 51 a piece.

“We did things that were uncharacteristic of us, so we talked about trying to correct them. We played pretty strong in the third quarter and I thought we played great for most of the fourth quarter, and the nonce we were in foul trouble, missing our free throws didn’t help, but I thought they played really hard,” said Prescott. “I mean, without our leading scorer in the game, for more than two-thirds of the game, we did great.”

By the fourth quarter, both teams sat in foul trouble and Mercer Island lost Kate DaPron, Sarah Taylor and Kris Brackman to the bench with five fouls each, while Hannah Lilly and Hailey Gullstad came out of the game due to injuries.

Prescott said neither had serious injuries.

“I thought Kris had a great game, Hailey had to play point, and play it all the time. I think a huge factor tonight was Kris,” said Prescott. The freshman finished with a team high of 17 points, the same number as Gullstad. Jae Shin had 11 for the Islanders, while DaPron finished with nine before getting into foul trouble. Heidi Black had eight and Sarah Taylor had three.

Despite a bad night at the free throw line for the Cougars, their last attempts, made by junior guard Claire Conricode gave them the final edge. Conricode finished the game with 22 points, just behind teammate Erika Johnson who had 25 points that night.

The Islanders will enter the tournament at the No. 2 seed from the SeaKing district. The team started the tournament last year as the No. 4 seed. The girls will play their first state game this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. at the Tacoma Dome against Mount Rainier.

Prescott said the Islanders will spend their off days resting and working on rebounding, an area Mercer Island had trouble with against Holy Names.

“We’ve seen them all play,” said Prescott of the teams at state. “We feel like we just played the best team in the state and we know we aren’t going to see them again until the very end, if we do well, so we’re ok with our chances of we who get.”

The Rams of Mt. Rainier finished second overall this season in the Seamount league, falling behind returning state champion Kennedy Catholic. The Rams finished in fifth place in the West Central District playoffs, after losing to Bonney Lake. The loss gave the team the fifth place seed into state.

Watch for updates all week as the girls begin their state tournament tomorrow afternoon.

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