Photo courtesy of Gillian d’Hondt The Mercer Island Islanders girls basketball team defeated Horizon Christian Academy 59-33 on the final day of the Nike Tournament of Champions on Dec. 22 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Islanders hit 10 3-pointers in the victory. Mercer Island currently has an overall record of 6-3.

Islanders compete against top caliber opponents at Arizona tourney

The Mercer Island girls basketball team may have put together a 1-3 record at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix from Dec. 19-Dec. 22, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of Islanders’ head coach Gillian d’Hondt.

The Islanders, who suffered losses to the Cactus Shadows, St. Anthony’s (Long Beach) and Horizon, earned their only win of the tournament with a convincing 59-33 victory against Horizon Christian Academy (San Diego) on the final day of the tourney on Dec. 22. Islanders’ point guard Kailee Yan had a game-high 17 points in the victory. Josie Blakeslee added 15 points as well. Mercer Island improved their overall record to 6-3 with the win.

“We came out of the gates strong and didn’t ever look back. It was a much-needed win,” d’Hondt said.

The Islanders got the victory against Horizon Christian Academy despite missing its top scorer Anna Luce due to an illness. Luce, who is the Islanders’ main post player, will play college basketball at Dartmouth College during the 2017-18 season.

“We were without Anna. She was really sick. Everybody stepped up and we shot really well from the three-point line in that game,” d’Hondt said.

The Islanders went 10-for-21 from beyond the arc against Horizon Christian. Yan was in the zone from the perimeter, nailing five 3-pointers in the win.

The coach believes her team gained valuable experience competing against formidable squads on the West Coast at the Arizona holiday tournament.

“That is exactly what we went down there for. It served its purpose. It was a much more physical game,” d’Hondt said. “The refs allowed the guards to ride the ball-handlers from coast to coast (up and down the court). There wasn’t a lot of calls so that was good. We don’t have a lot of athletic and physical teams in KingCo (league) that we play. That is why we play in the Rainier Beach fall league so we can play against the Metro teams. It prepares us for the district tournament. I think it (Phoenix tournament) definitely toughened us up and showed us what we need to work on.”

The biggest victory of the season to date during the 2016-17 season came against the Bellevue Wolverines on Dec. 12. The Islanders’ 67-44 victory snapped Bellevue’s 31-game winning streak. D’Hondt said Luce broke the 1,000-point barrier in the win against the Wolverines.

The second week of January was a memorable week for Luce.

“Anna scored 94 points in three games. She always comes ready to play,” she said. “Anna is definitely a leader on and off the court.”

The Islanders will host the Liberty Patriots at 7:15 p.m. on Jan. 4 at Mercer Island High School.

More in Sports

Maya Virdell, left, and Susie Lepow, right, will compete at the USATF Nationals Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships, which take place from July 22-28 in Sacramento, California. Photo courtesy of the Mercer Island Cross Country Booster Club
Mercer Island athletes compete at USATF Region 13 track and field championships in Tacoma

Maya Virdell and Susie Lepow will travel to California for Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships.

Mercer Island Islanders boys basketball player Nigel Seda, left, drives to the hoop in a game against the Interlake Saints during the 2018-19 season. Seda will be one of four returners to the starting lineup during the 2019-20 season. Photo courtesy of Patrick Krohn/Patrick Krohn Photography
Islanders prove their mettle at Gonzaga team camp

Mercer Island Islanders boys basketball squad is an experienced group.

Mercer Island Islanders 2019 graduate Teague Conder (pictured) will continue his baseball career at Whitman College in Walla Walla. Photo courtesy of Teague Conder
Conder to continue baseball career at Whitman College

Former Mercer Island third baseman embraces the action.

Peacocks roam the neighborhood of Beards Cove in sportswriter Shaun Scott’s childhood hometown of Belfair. Shaun Scott/staff photo
Running alongside a beautiful creature

Peacocks roam the streets of the neighborhood I grew up in.

Arabella Chapman earned the top spot on the podium in the 55-pound weight class at the 2019 Women’s National Championships and World Team trials. Photo courtesy of Connie Chapman
Chapman earns a gold medal on the wrestling mat

Northwood Elementary School student dominates opponents.

Mercer Island quarterback Clay Dippold completes a set of reps on the squat rack in the weight room on June 14. Shaun Scott/staff photo
Seasoned signal caller leads Islanders

Field general Clay Dippold is stoked for his senior season.

Mercer Island Islanders senior football player Bryce Fitzwilson utilizes speed and quickness on the gridiron. Shaun Scott/staff photo
Controlling the edge with speed and quickness

Stalwart defensive end Bryce Fitzwilson leads by example.

Mercer Island girls lacrosse players Grace Fujinaga, Annabelle Gersch and Hannah Tiscornia hold the state championship trophy following their 10-9 victory against Bainbridge Island in the Washington Schoolgirls Lacrosse Association championship game on May 17. Photo courtesy of Kathy Gersch
Seattle Mariners legend Edgar Martinez, left, and Seattle Times columnist Larry Stone, right, collaborated on a book titled, “Edgar: An Autobiography.” Martinez and Stone attended a book signing on June 12 at Barnes Noble in Bellevue. Shaun Scott/staff photo
Legendary Mariner meets a plethora of fans

Edgar Martinez visits Bellevue Barnes & Noble to promote his book.

Mercer Island resident Michael Magnussen has competed in all six of the marathon majors in the world since 2016. Magnussen clocked a time of 2:56.21 at the London Marathon in May. This past February, Magnussen finished with a time of 2:55.40 in the Tokyo Marathon. Photo courtesy of Theresa Magnussen
Running is a way of life for Magnussen

Hard work and determination pays dividends for avid Mercer Island runner.

Mercer Island Islanders sophomore Tegan Yuasa is currently the top-ranked male 55-kilogram athlete in the sport of Judo. Yuasa will compete at the Cadet World Championships, which will take place from Sept. 25-29 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Photo courtesy of Mark Yuasa
Yuasa earns first place in the USA Judo Elite Senior National Championships

Mercer Island High School sophomore Tegan Yuasa captured first place in the… Continue reading

The Mercer Island FC Maroon girls soccer team earned a 2-1 victory against the PacNW Blue in the President’s Cup D2 championship contest May 12. Photo courtesy of Tom Hill
Maroon girls soccer team completes journey with a championship

Teamwork propels Maroon soccer team to third title in five seasons.