Chef Lutu’s steal stew too hot for blue crew

Senior ties school record for picks in a game as Islanders pound Interlake, 71-30

Senior ties school record for picks in a game as Islanders pound Interlake, 71-30

By Matt Phelps
Mercer Island Reporter

If the careers of gourmet cook, doctor or real estate investor don’t interest Islander Leroy Lutu, he might want to consider a doctorate in picking pockets. The senior earned his bachelor’s in the art by tying a school record with 11 steals, as Mercer Island pummeled the baby-blue clad Saints, 71-30, on Dec. 18.

“We had great team defense tonight,” said Lutu, who tied Ryan Hammer’s mark from 2002. “The key to our success this year is going to be defense.”

Along with all those steals came 25 points and the senior’s fifth consecutive 20-point game to start the season.

“I just have great teammates,” said Lutu. “They get me the ball on fast breaks and in half court. Coach Pepple has told me to be aggressive. 800 shots a day during the off season are paying off.”

Both teams started slow during the first period, tied at 5-5 with just 4:23 minutes left. But the Islanders went on a tear with a 9-1 run including two Lutu steals for fast break baskets. Lutu earned six fast-break baskets off of steals and scored on 10 of his 11 picks during the game.

“He scores in a lot of ways,” said Mercer Island coach Ed Pepple.

Mercer Island’s eight-point lead after the first quarter would only grow as the game wore on. Islander Drew Sexton took over on offense during the second period by scoring nine of the team’s 21 points.

Islander Evan Zahnizer’s long-arm pick of a Saint pass and subsequent assist to Sexton put Mercer Island up 31-14, crushing the will of Interlake just before the half.

The Islanders would take a 55-24 lead during the third quarter before Pepple took all of his starters out of the game. The Islanders struggled to score during the final 10 minutes of the game, but an open lay-in by Will Hansen at the buzzer put the Mercer Island total over 70 for the second consecutive game.

The Islanders’ offense has not just been Lutu as of late. Sexton (15), Matt Shut (11) and Lutu all scored in double figures against Interlake, the third time this season for the threesome.

“I’d like to have four or five guys who can do that, but we are doing well,” said Pepple.

The Islanders are 5-0 on the season despite Schut’s relative struggles, compared to the 2006-2007 season. Schut has only scored over 20 points twice and has been inconsistent from the free-throw line.

“He is still shooting over 50 percent,” said Pepple. “He is entitled to miss a few.”

The Islanders are currently in Palm Springs, Calif., for the Desert Heat Tournament. They will face some of the best players in the country.

“Coach Pepple told us he didn’t sign us up to play the Sisters of the Poor,” said Lutu. “We will see some players who are going to Duke and North Carolina next year, so it will be a good test.”

As for Lutu, some colleges like Navy and Bucknell have noticed his skills.

“It is exciting. We will see what happens,” said Lutu. “But right now I am focused on California.”

When the Islanders return from Palm Springs, the second-half schedule will not be kind with two games against Skyline and Newport, along with rematches against Bellevue and Issaquah.