The Mercer Island boys basketball team jumped out to an early lead and the Islanders never looked back, cruising to a 61-36 win over the Interlake Saints to win the 3A KingCo tournament championship on Feb. 11.
The KingCo tournament championship caps off an 18-3 regular season for the Islanders, including a perfect 12-0 league record.
The Islanders were led offensively by junior guard Tyler Butson (13 points), senior guard Adam Parker (12 points) and junior forward David Pickles (11 points). Mercer Island head coach Gavin Cree said he was happy with the team’s defensive effort and intensity. The Islanders defense held the Saints to their lowest point total of the season.
“I thought we were intense and engaged,” Cree said. “I think when we do that, it’s menacing a little bit. We followed the game plan and made it tough for them.”
Pickles scored the game’s first seven points and Butson hit a 3-pointer to put the Islanders up 10-0 in the first quarter. After the Saints cut the lead to 14-7, Parker hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the Islanders into the second quarter leading 17-7.
The Islanders took a 26-14 lead into halftime after a competitive second quarter. In the third quarter, Butson scored eight points of the teams 20 points, including a pair of 3-pointers to extend their lead to 46-25 heading into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Islanders were able to look to their bench to close out their second-straight league tournament championship. The loudest cheer of the night came when senior forward Matthew Nimmo came off the bench and converted a 3-point play.
“Matt Nimmo made a classic Matt Nimmo play, a lot of pump fakes and ends up with an and-one,” Cree said. “That’s the kind of thing he does in practice, so that was kind of a vintage effort from him.”
The convincing win over the Saints sends the Islanders into the 3A SeaKing district tournament with a first-round bye. That bye will give the Islanders extra time to prepare for the Metro league opponents they will face at districts.
“You want the best seed possible,” Cree said. “We get to practice, rest a little bit and watch a couple of the potential opponents from the Metro league.”
The Islanders are set to open the district tournament on Feb. 18 at Bellevue College. Their opponent in their first game will be the winner of a loser-out game between the Metro No. 5 seed and the Metro No. 7 seed on Feb. 15.
The Islanders will look to improve on their district tournament performance from last season. The Islanders lost to West Seattle in their first district game last season, sending them into a loser-out game against Eastside Catholic, which resulted in a 54-40 season-ending loss.
“We’re in the position we want to be in,” Cree said. “We’re back in the round where we dropped a double-overtime game last year. Our goal is to get it right this time, win in the next round and get to state.”