The Bellevue Wolverines boys basketball team’s stingy defense was the difference against the Mercer Island Islanders in the Class 3A KingCo title game.
Bellevue, which led Mercer Island by just one point at halftime, outscored Mercer Island 34-26 in the second half en route to a 61-52 victory on Feb. 9 at Newport High School in Factoria. Bellevue particularly dominated the third quarter, outscoring Mercer Island 22-10 to build a 13-point lead. The Wolverines led by many as 15 points in the fourth quarter of play. Bellevue head coach Chris O’Connor was proud his squad was able to slow down Mercer Island’s offensive attack.
“That was the best defensive effort that we’ve had all year. We did a great job handling ball screens and we boxed out. For the first time we were focused for a full 32 minutes. That was a good sign,” O’Connor said.
Despite Bellevue’s lockdown defense in the second half, Mercer Island wouldn’t go away quietly. The Islanders cut Bellevue’s led to five points (57-52) on a Jack Delay 3-pointer with 1:26 left in regulation.
Unfortunately for Mercer Island, Bellevue outscored them 4-0 in the final minute to preserve the win.
“We fought back at the end. We were able to force some turnovers and our guys didn’t give up. I was pleased with that but overall we got outplayed tonight,” Mercer Island head coach Gavin Cree said. “We got outplayed and out-coached. That’s the bottom line. We were a step behind tonight in every phase.”
Bellevue forward Hunter Hansen scored a team-high 18 points in the victory for the Wolverines. Hansen displayed a wide array of post moves which resulted in high percentage field goal attempts.
“We’ve been working a lot with his jab step and his footwork. He really did a great job of finishing tonight,” O’Connor said.
The Wolverines clinched a berth at the Class 3A SeaKing district II basketball tournament with the victory. The Wolverines will play at 8:15 p.m. on Feb. 14 at Bellevue College in their first contest of districts. O’Connor knows the road to the Class 3A state tournament will be a formidable challenge.
“We got to get through districts. Metro (league) has a lot of good teams. This is our eighth (KingCo) championship in 11 years. I couldn’t be prouder of our guys right now,” O’Connor said.
The Islanders will face the Metro division No. 9 seed in a loser-out playoff game at 7 p.m. on Feb. 11.
“We’re disappointed but we’ve got to come back and play Saturday. If we can win Saturday we will be in a good position to move forward,” Cree said.