Islanders advance to Class 3A state semfinals

Mercer Island senior guard Kailee Yan came through when it counted the most in the Class 3A state girls basketball quarterfinals against the Kamiakin Braves.

Yan, who was just 1-for-9 from the field in the first half, scored 10 of her 15 points in the fourth quarter, propelling the Islanders to a 52-43 win against the Braves on Thursday at the Tacoma Dome. The Islanders and Braves were tied at 37-37 at the end of three quarters of play. Mercer Island dominated the fourth quarter, outscoring Kamiakin 15-6 to clinch a berth in the Class 3A state semifinals.

“The first half I was pretty off. I wasn’t feeling my shot. The normal shots I would make, I wasn’t making but I kept shooting. That was important. My coaches did a good job of encouraging me and my teammates kept telling me to shoot,” Yan said.

Yan drilled a 3-pointer with 2:20 left in regulation, giving the Islanders a commanding 50-41 lead. The Islanders, who struggled with rebounding throughout the season, finished with 38 rebounds including 14 offensive rebounds. The Islanders formidable defense held Kamiakin star player Oumou Toure to 21 points and Alexa Hazel to a meager four points.

“As you can see, we only have one six-footer (Anna Luce) and the rest of us are pretty small. In order for us to win, we have to be scrappy. Jessie (Stenberg), Jackie (Stenberg) and Josie (Blakeslee) did a really nice job. Anna had a monster game,” Yan said.

Luce scored a team-high 18 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in the win. Luce, who will play college basketball at Dartmouth College next season, wasn’t concerned when the Islanders fell behind the Braves 8-0 with 6:43 remaining in the first quarter.

“We didn’t start very well but I know I have a lot of confidence in my team. We have done this in the past where we can dig ourselves right back out of the hole that we started in. That is one of the best assets of our team is that we are just relentless at all times,” Luce said.

The Islanders will face the Snohomish Panthers in the Class 3A state semifinals at 5:30 p.m. on Friday at the Tacoma Dome.

“Now our goal is to just win state. We are only two games away now,” Luce said.

Mercer Island head coach Gillian d’Hondt said her players deserve to be in this position at this juncture of the season.

“I’m just so proud of the girls. The girls are really stepping up. It is something special. It could be our year,” d’Hondt said. “I told them before we came to state to think about all those hours we put in during the summer and in the fall. This is when it pays off right now.”

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