Two in-league wins in two days, by a combined margin of victory of 61 points, helped to reinforce the fact that the Mercer Island boys basketball team (7-1) is a legitimate contender this season. But the victories do not include one of the biggest games of the year.
The team’s contest against undefeated Issaquah (8-0) Jan. 18 was postponed due to inclement weather. The two teams will now meet Feb.12 at Issaquah High School in a game that could determine the 3A KingCo championship.
“That will be a pretty exciting last game of the season,” said Mercer Island head coach Ed Pepple.
The Islanders posted their highest point total of the year, crushing Mount Si during the first half to cruise to an 88-51 victory at home Friday.
Mercer Island scored 53 first-half points while completely shutting down the Wildcat offense during the second quarter. Mount Si struggled at the easiest aspects of the game during the second period as they were outscored 26-7.
“We played almost perfect during the first half,” said Pepple. “It was a great effort by everyone.”
Islander Matt Schut seemed to hit every shot he took, finishing with a game-high 21 points. But the problem for the Wildcats was not just with Schut as Mercer Island finished the game with two other players, Leroy Lutu (14) and Kramer Aspiri (12), in double figures, along with a dozen other Islander players scoring during the contest.
Mount Si kept pace with the Islanders during the second half, as Pepple gave some of his starters less playing time in order to rest for Saturday night’s game at Sammamish High School. But the rest didn’t account for Evan Zahniser’s sprained ankle, which sidelined the guard against the Totems.
“We had to adjust at the point and we didn’t play as well as we did against Mount Si,” said Pepple.
The Islanders still dominated the first half and easily picked up the 63-39 victory over the Totems.
Sammamish failed to score double digits in each of the first three quarters as Mercer Island took a 39-24 lead into the fourth period. But instead of just walking to the finish line, Mercer Island went on an all-out sprint, scoring 24 points during the fourth period to seal the win.
Trevor Fulp (14), Lutu (13) and Schut (11) led the team in scoring.
Both games are a good indication of how hard it is to guard Mercer Island on defense as the team continues to share the ball and run its offense through multiple scoring threats.
“I am really pleased. It’s the key to our success,” said Pepple. “But the guys inside are doing a great job. They do the dirty work and they have a high field-goal percentage, they are very efficient.”
The game against Sammamish was rescheduled from Jan. 12 when school was canceled due to snow. It is just one of three games that will have to be made up between now and the 3A KingCo tournament Feb. 13 at Bellevue Community College. Rest for the players is paramount for the success of the team.
Mercer Island’s next contest will come Friday as they travel to Skyline. The Islanders will head to Bellevue next Wednesday to make-up a game that was postponed in December. The Wolverines will be looking to get back at the Islanders for a 47-39 loss earlier this season that all but eliminated them from the regular-season title hunt.