Photo courtesy of Don Borin/Stop Action Photography The Mercer Island Islanders celebrate after defeating the Bishop Blanchet Braves 52-47 in the Class 3A girls state championship game on March 4 at the Tacoma Dome.

Islanders earn Class 3A state championship

Pure euphoria was on display following the biggest victory in the history of the Mercer Island High School girls basketball program.

The Islanders attained its first ever state championship in program history, earning a 52-47 victory against the Bishop Blanchet Braves in the Class 3A state championship game on March 4 at the Tacoma Dome. The Islanders displayed poise and moxie down the stretch to seal a victory. With 22.3 seconds left in regulation, Islanders’ junior Claire Mansfield sunk two free throws, extending her team’s lead to 50-47. With just five seconds left in the game Mansfield came up with a huge steal. Mansfield dribbled around the backcourt in an attempt to run out the clock but was fouled with 1.8 seconds to go. Mansfield then calmly knocked down two free throws to put the game away. Mercer Island senior post player Anna Luce, who finished with a team-high 21 points, was confident Mansfield would capitalize on her opportunity at the free-throw line.

“Claire is so poised and has such a great head on her shoulders. We knew she would make it. There was no pressure, it is just something you do every single day. It is the same free throw,” Luce said.

Mercer Island senior guard Kailee Yan said Mansfield’s steal in the closing moments of the game was a pivotal play.

“Claire was fantastic today. On that defensive play we knew we didn’t want to give up a three (3-pointer) and we did not want to foul. We were closing out and scrambling. Everybody was running and trying to change the trajectory of their shots but Claire did a great job of anticipating and securing the ball,” Yan said of Mansfield.

The Islanders trailed the Braves 23-18 at halftime. In the locker room Islanders’ head coach Gillian d’Hondt told her players to leave absolutely everything on the floor.

“At halftime, Gillian said there is nothing to lose. We have 16 more minutes in our whole entire season,” Luce said.

The Islanders embraced d’Hondt’s advice and started the third quarter on a 11-0 run, taking a 29-23 lead with 5:43 left in the quarter. By the end of the third period, the Islanders had a 36-33 lead. In the final eight minutes, Yan rose to the occasion for the third consecutive game in a row. Yan hit a long jumper with 1:34 left in regulation, giving the Islanders a 45-43 lead. With 49 seconds to go, Yan nailed a three-pointer extending the lead to 48-43. Yan, who was just 2-for-9 from the field in the first half, was confident her shot would fall as the game progressed.

“For me this was the biggest game I have ever played in my life. I was a little bit off at the beginning and wasn’t really hitting my threes but in like all of these other games Anna (Luce), Jessie (Stenberg) Josie (Blakeslee) and Claire (Mansfield) were all encouraging me to keep shooting because they know I can come up with those shots,” Yan said.

d’Hondt said Yan is fearless on the court despite her lack of size.

“Kailee showed this whole tournament that she is not scared of anybody. Nobody can guard her one-on-one and she knows it. She understands that we have Anna but Kailee is honestly our other main scorer. I don’t even have to tell her, she just takes over. When the clock is running down she wants the ball. She is not scared. She is the smallest player out there but has the biggest heart and plays the biggest,” d’Hondt said.

Stenberg concurred with d’Hondt’s assessment.

“Kailee is an amazing basketball player. She never gives up. She works so hard and it shows on the court,” Stenberg said.

Luce said her team was thrilled to be the first state champion in the history of the Mercer Island High School girls basketball program.

“It is surreal. It is amazing to be here. I’m just so proud of all of our hard work that we put in. It all paid off. It is just so fun to be part of it with this group. It is something memorable and is something people will look forward to trying to do again,” Luce said.

Stenberg said winning a title was a dream come true.

“I don’t know how to describe it. You see other people winning state and you wish that we could do that someday and then you do it. It is just unbelievable,” she said.

d’Hondt, who is an alumnus of Bishop Blanchet, said her team’s drive was the difference in the run to the championship.

“They are so smart on and off the court. They will take adjustments and they will just believe in it. We put in new plays today and we ran them. It is really all about the girls, they just bought in. That motivation comes from within. They just wanted it and worked so hard. It paid off,” d’Hondt said.

Photo courtesy of Don Borin/Stop Action Photography Mercer Island senior Anna Luce scored a team-high 21 points in the state championship game against Bishop Blanchet.

Photo courtesy of Don Borin/Stop Action Photography Mercer Island senior guard Kailee Yan knocked down two huge shots in the final two minutes of the Class 3A state championship game. Yan finished the game with 14 points.

Photo courtesy of Don Borin/Stop Action Photography Hoisting the trophy is something members of the 2016-17 Mercer Island Islanders girls basketball team will never forget.

Photo courtesy of Don Borin/Stop Action Photography The Mercer Island Islanders pose with the trophy following the game.

More in Sports

Alex Edwards captured USA Swimming All-American honors for his stellar 2018-19 season with the Mercer Island Islanders. Photo courtesy of Bruce Edwards
Edwards earns USA Swimming All-American honors

Stellar 2018-19 season garners recognition.

Mercer Island Islanders midfielder Matt Capone (right), passes the ball to a teammate in a contest against the Juanita Rebels during the 2019 season. Capone will play soccer at Northwest Nazarene University this fall. Photo courtesy of Patrick Krohn/Patrick Krohn Photography
Attaining a dream on the soccer field

Mercer Island 2019 grad Matt Capone will play college soccer at Northwest Nazarene University.

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.

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.

Mercer Island senior Matthew Capone, left, dribbles the ball up field while being guarded by Juanita sophomore Andrew Taylor in a game on April 11. Capone earned first-team all-3A KingCo honors as a midfielder during the 2019 season. Photo courtesy of Patrick Krohn/Patrick Krohn Photography
Islanders athletes capture all-league honors

Bevy of Mercer Island soccer/baseball players garner recognition.

The Mercer Island Islanders tennis doubles team consisting of Kevin Chen/Chris Elliott earned first place at the 3A state tennis tournament on May 25 in Kennewick. Photo courtesy of MC Chen
Doubles duo attains a coveted goal on the tennis court

The doubles team of Kevin Chen/Chris Elliott goes undefeated at the 3A state tournament.

Coach Don Papasedero, Gihoe Seo, Grace Shaddle, Annelise Rorem, Katelyn Travis, Lilly Pruchno and coach Tim Okamura take a team photo with the 3A third place trophy on May 22 at Hawks Prairie Golf Course in Lacey. Photo courtesy of Billy Pruchno
Mercer Island girls golf team captures third place at 3A state tourney

Islanders’ girls golf squad rises to the occasion in final tournament of 2019.

Mercer Island player Glen Mahony (No. 9) leaps on the back of Will Wheeler (No. 14) during the 3A state championship game against the Bellevue Wolverines. Mercer Island defeated Bellevue 14-6 on May 25 at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila. Photo courtesy of Rick Edelman/Rick Edelman Photography
Islanders win 3A state lacrosse championship

Mercer Island finishes 2019 season with 18 victories.