Boys basketball team improves in-league mark to 18-0
Mercer Island Reporter
The intensity of the 3A KingCo tournament title game between Mercer Island and Bellevue was evident by the scratches and bruises on some of the boys’ basketball players after the game. But all the blood and pain faded away as Islander Drew Sexton walked to the center of the Bellevue Community College basketball court to accept the first-place trophy for his team. Mercer Island last won the trophy in 2004.
“I guess good kids do finish first, sometimes,” said Mercer Island coach Ed Pepple, who was named coach of the year.
The 55-43 win Friday night was the third victory over rival Bellevue this season and continues Mercer Island’s perfect run against KingCO teams this season.
“This gives us a lot to work for in the next round,” said Islander Matt Schut, who had 13 points during the finals and was named first team all-conference. “We get a first-round bye and we have a good shot to make it to state.”
Both teams began the game sporting tough defense but a long three-pointer from Sexton gave Mercer Island an 18-10 lead during the opening moments of the second quarter. That lead would shrink to just two points during the quarter but an other long three-pointer, this time from Leroy Lutu, gave the Islanders a 25-17 lead heading into halftime. Sexton and Lutu led the team in scoring with 15 points each.
“This was a really physical game,” said Lutu, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. “But we did what it took to win.”
The third quarter was a big difference for the Islanders, as they pushed their lead to 38-21, the largest of the game. But Bellevue would battle back, eventually getting trailing the Islanders by six with 5:32 left in the game.
Freethrows and a surge of steals prevented the Wolverines from getting any closer.
Mercer Island nearly failed to make the finals as they had to fend off a strong Skyline team in overtime, 52-49, during the semifinals.
“We will have to play better than we did last night if we are going to get to state,” said Schut.
Lutu was the difference during the semis, scoring 22 points. A Lutu three-pointer proved to be the game-winning shot.
“He really carried us,” said Schut, who was the only other Islander in double figures during the game with 12 points. “He was our guy.”
Sexton was selected second team all-conference, while Evan Zahniser was an honorable mention. Mercer Island also took home the sportsmanship award.
The win guarantees Mercer Island two games during the district tournament and a bye through the first round.
The Islanders will play at 8:15 p.m. Friday night at Sammamish High School during the second round of the Sea-King tournament.