Mercer Island girls basketball team advances to district title game

The Mercer Island Islanders girls basketball team registered a monumental victory against one of the best teams in Washington in the Class 3A 2017 SeaKing District II semifinals.

The Islanders, who trailed the No. 1 seeded Bishop Blanchet Braves 31-21 at halftime, nabbed a 50-44 comeback victory on Feb. 16 at Bellevue College. It was the first time during the 2016-17 season the Braves have suffered a defeat. Bishop Blanchet dropped to 22-1 overall while Mercer Island improved to 20-4. The Islanders will face West Seattle in the SeaKing District championship game at 8:15 p.m. on Feb. 18. Things didn’t look good early for the Islanders against a formidable Braves squad. Mercer Island trailed by 10 points after two quarters of play.

The second half was a completely different game for the Islanders.

In the third and fourth quarter, the Islanders unveiled a trapping zone defense that flustered the Braves. The Islanders put pressure on Bishop Blanchet from baseline-to-baseline which paid dividends. Mercer Island went on a 14-0 run to start the second half, building a 35-31 lead on a Anna Luce basket with 2:31 left in the third quarter. The Islanders controlled the action in the fourth quarter coming up with three key offensive rebounds in the final four minutes of play, preserving the victory.

Mercer Island junior guard Jessie Stenberg was jovial following the biggest win of the 2016-17 season to date.

“We are so excited. We came in here and wanted to win and we did it,” Stenberg said. “This was one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced this season. It is a huge win for us. Our game plan was to pressure the ball and make them have turnovers. We just played with high intensity.”

The Islanders have struggled with rebounding throughout the season but came up with the crucial offensive boards when they needed it the most in the fourth quarter.

“They left it all on the floor. Jessie (Stenberg) and Josie (Blakeslee) came up huge on the glass. It meant everything, especially going up against the biggest team we’ve seen all year. We just wanted it tonight. It was all heart and effort,” Mercer Island head coach Gillian d’Hondt said. “Now we know we can beat anybody so we’re going in (district title game) with confidence. This game was huge.”

d’Hondt was glad her squad was able to recover from a sluggish first half.

“We came out slow but we awoke from our slumber as I like to put it in the second half by coming out aggressive. We knew we could run on them and we executed our offense very well in the second half. We’re excited to move on,” she said.

The Islanders have won their past three playoff games since losing to Bellevue 49-45 on Feb. 9 in the Class 3A KingCo title game.

“Honestly I think it (loss) helped us. It brought us together. It exploited our weaknesses and helped us get better,” Stenberg said.

Luce scored a game-high 26 points in the win against Bishop Blanchet.

More in Sports

Islanders dominate Vikings

Mercer Island scores 17 goals against Puyallup.

Goal celebration in Mercer Island win

Mercer Island senior captain Jackie Stenberg, left, celebrates scoring in regular time… Continue reading

Mercer Island Islanders senior swim athlete Chloe Mark, who has advanced to the Class 3A state swim meet in the 500 free the past two seasons, wants to see her team finish in one of the top three spots at the Class 3A state swim meet this November. The Islanders captured fourth place at the Class 3A state meet during the 2017 season. Shaun Scott/staff photo
Mark is a marvelous swimmer for Mercer Island

Mercer Island senior Chloe Mark has loved swimming since she was in elementary school.

‘She likes to win and she likes to run hard’

Mercer Island’s Maggie Baker tears up the cross country course.

Mercer Island player Oliver Schaaf, (No. 5), plays defense against the Newport Knights in the season opener on Sept. 6. Photo courtesy of Michelle Kavesh
Islanders boys water polo team is striving for excellence in the pool

Mercer Island defeats Newport in season opener.

Mercer Island volleyball players Anika Iverson, left, and Quinn Casey, right, leap into the air against the Skyline Spartans in a non-league contest on Sept. 12 on Mercer Island. Skyline defeated Mercer Island 3-1 in the matchup. Photo courtesy of Patrick Krohn/Patrick Krohn Photography
Spartans defeat Islanders in nonleague volleyball contest

Mercer Island head coach Samantha Marziello is in her first season leading the program.

Gordon Gibson, left, pictured with his father Graeme, right, will compete at a professional jiu jitsu competition titled, Fight2Win on Sept. 14 at the Seattle Center. Shaun Scott/staff photo
Gibson will compete in professional jiu jitsu event

Mercer Island middle schooler Gordon Gibson is thriving in the sport of jiu jitsu.

The Eastside Lions varsity rugby squad (pictured) earned third place at Nationals in Kansas City this past May. Photo courtesy of Hugh Gladner
Eastside Lions rugby club is thriving on the Eastside

Lions varsity squad earns third place at nationals.

Thunder Sports Network takes the sports world by storm

Rich Hallstrom and Chris Brown co-authored Thunder Sports Network, but it’s friendship that counts.

Cecilia Sommerfield, left, and Emily Guedel, right, competed at the USA Water Polo National Junior Olympics from July 26-29 in San Jose, California. Sommerfield and Guedel will be freshman during the 2018-19 school year at Mercer Island High School. Shaun Scott, staff photo
Competing against top-caliber competition in California

Mercer Island athletes compete in water polo Junior Olympics.

Mercer Island Islanders senior boys lacrosse player Donnie Howard competed on the Russian National lacrosse team at the 2018 FIL World Lacrosse Championships from July 12-21 in Israel. Shaun Scott/staff photo
Howard partakes in an experience of a lifetime

Mercer Island senior Donnie Howard competes in 2018 FIL World Lacrosse Championships.

Andrews soars onto the national stage

Brooke Andrews, 13, is looking to compete at the 2018 USA Diving Junior National Championships.