Place second at KingCo
Mercer Island Reporter
The Mercer Island girls basketball team has not qualified for the state tournament since 1991, but the Islanders gave themselves a good chance to break that dubious streak by taking the No. 2 seed to the district tournament last week.
Mercer Island did not do it the easy way, defeating two teams that they had been winless against during the regular season, along with a huge upset over the No. 4 ranked team in the state.
“We expected the best from this,” said Islander Hannah Lilly, who was elected to the second team all-conference. “Our goal is to go to state and we have given ourselves more chances.”
The Islanders began the tournament with a blowout victory over a team they lost to twice during the regular season, Skyline. Mercer Island put together a 40-25 second half to win 61-41 behind a balanced scoring attack. Lilly led all scorers with 18 points, while Janelle Chow (12) and Hailey Gullstad (11) finished in double figures. A total of nine players scored for Mercer Island during the game, making it difficult for the Spartans to play defense. But the game would prove to be costly for the Islanders as they lost senior Holland Fleming for the remainder of the season to a knee injury.
Mercer Island’s semi-final game during the 3A KingCo tournament came against the regular season 3A KingCo champion Issaquah Eagles. Freshman Jae Shin led the Islanders with a career-high 20 points.
“She is the type of kid that if she misses 10 shots in a row, she wants the 11th shot,” said Mercer Island coach Jamie Prescott.
“We wanted to win every quarter,” said Shin, who was an honorable mention to the all-conference team.
Mercer Island came close to that goal, but the third quarter nearly ended the game. The Islanders came into halftime with a 14-point lead but were outscored 22-6 during the third period, relinquishing the momentum and the lead.
But Shin and Lilly, who finished the game with 14 points, led the team back through a difficult final eight minutes of the game to earn a trip to the tournament finals by winning 61-60. Shin, who averages nine points a game this year, hit two key three-pointers along with going 3-of-4 from the line during the final two minutes of the game to clinch the upset.
The Islanders championship game came against the school’s arch rival in Bellevue.
“I had to pull them all off the gym in order to calm their nerves,” said Prescott. “This is the first time in 18 years any Mercer Island team has been in this type of a position.”
The unlikely position of playing for the KingCo tournament title threw two players off as they were scheduled to play in an out-of-state volleyball tournament and had to change their flight plans at the last minute.
“Everyone is really committed to this team,” said Lilly.
Mercer Island kept pace with the Wolverines during the first quarter, as Shin put up a circus shot from under the basket to give her team an early 7-3 lead. A long three-pointer by Chow gave Mercer Island their final lead of the game at 10-8 just prior to the end of the first quarter. Chow was an honorable mention for the all-conference team.
“I was hoping we would have enough energy because we were on such a high after the Skyline game,” said Prescott. “We were short on players and the mental fatigue took its toll on us.”
The Islanders struggled to stay with in single digit of the Wolverines through the rest of the game as Bellevue would take the championship 53-33.
The No. 2 seed guarantees Mercer Island two games at the district tournament. The Islanders’ first game will be tomorrow at 3 p.m. at Bellevue Community College. Mercer Island will have to win two games before they lose two games to qualify for state.