For the third time during the 2018-19 boys basketball season, the Mercer Island Islanders were victorious against the Bellevue Wolverines.
Mercer Island, which held off a spirited Bellevue rally late in the fourth quarter, held on for a 44-41 victory in the 3A KingCo tournament championship game on Feb. 6 at Newport High School in Bellevue. The Islanders improved their overall record to 17-4 with the win while Bellevue dropped to 14-7 overall. The Islanders led the Wolverines by 11 points early in the fourth quarter but saw their lead dwindle down the stretch. With 23.6 seconds left in regulation, the Islanders had a 43-41 lead with Bellevue in possession of the ball following a timeout. Bellevue junior guard Declan Rooney drove to the hoop while being tightly defended by Mercer Island guard Nigel Seda. Rooney’s shot attempt was off the mark. With 2.0 seconds left on the clock, Mercer Island freshman guard Chris Clark was fouled after gaining possession of the ball. Clark hit his first free throw attempt, which extended Mercer Island’s lead to 44-41, but missed his second attempt. Rooney unleashed a shot from nearly full-court that was off the mark at the buzzer, preserving a Mercer Island victory. Islanders’ head coach Gavin Cree was glad to see his team earn a landmark win for the program.
“We’ve been in this spot (3A KingCo championship game) many times before in recent years and have fallen short. We lost twice the previous couple of years. Now we got the KingCo regular season banner and the KingCo tournament championship checked off the list,” Cree explained. “The biggest thing is we get a bye at districts so we get to practice a little bit before our next game.”
Mercer Island guard William Lee, who finished with nine points, was jovial following the triumph against his team’s biggest rival.
“It feels amazing. We set out a goal and we got it,” Lee said. “We were able to knock down the big shots that mattered. On the defensive side, we were able to get those stops.”
Mercer Island junior guard Adam Parker scored a team-high 10 points in the win. Seda also finished with nine points. Bellevue head coach Sam Fein was impressed with his team’s fourth quarter rally. Bellevue senior Jalen Love keyed the comeback bid, scoring 12 of his 14 points in the second half of play.
“We have strong senior leadership. The guys didn’t give up. Credit to Mercer Island for holding us off at the end. We came up a little short but I’m really proud of these guys. This gives us good momentum going into districts. I’m excited. We are getting better every time we are out there,” Fein said.
Fein wasn’t surprised to see Love play proficiently down the stretch.
“Jalen has been clutch for us all year. I don’t think there is another player that I have ever coached who I feel more confident with down in crunch time. He is definitely one of our senior leaders and we have a lot of faith in him. I’m always impressed with what he is doing at the end of games,” Fein said.