Islanders clinch KingCo title
By Matt Phelps
Mercer Island Reporter
The Mercer Island boys basketball team clinched the 3A KingCo for the first time in four years, Friday, with a 70-59 win against Skyline. But a running jump-shot by Islander Matt Schut against Issaquah with 1.2 seconds left, giving Mercer Island a 64-62 win, saved an unblemished regular-season record on Wednesday.
“We were just looking for an open guy, and that was money,” said Mercer Island coach Ed Pepple.
The game began with a surprise three-pointer by Islander forward Sam Rasmussen. Islander Leroy Lutu’s turnaround fade-away-jump shot gave Mercer Island an early 14-9 lead.
But the Mercer Island advantage would fade away when Issaquah tied the game at 22-22 during the second quarter with six minutes remaining before halftime and their first lead of the game, 27-26. The two teams traded leads seven times until a Lutu jump in the lane off an inbound pass finished a 9-0 run late in the third to give the Islanders a 49-43 lead.
The physical play on the floor along with a rowdy crowd led to some trash talking by Lutu, following a steal and assist to Drew Sexton, as the Islanders took their biggest lead of the game, 60-53, with 2:30 left in the game.
But that lead would evaporate as well. The Eagles tied the score with 12 seconds remaining on the clock.
“I knew it was going in,” said Schut, who finished with 17 points. “We played great as a team.”
Schut’s shot would spark a flood of Islander students onto the floor, but the referees would put 1.2 seconds back on the clock. Issaquah would be unable to get a basket as the floor was flooded with students once again.
“This game was all about runs and momentum, and we knew that at crunch time we would have to make ours,” said Lutu, who led the Islanders with 20 points. “I feel like we have a good chance to go undefeated, and that was one of our goals.”
The KingCo title makes school history as all three boys’ winter sports varsity teams, including wrestling and swimming, won the league championship this season.
With a win on Tuesday (after Reporter deadline) against Newport, the Islanders will attempt to complete the sweep of KingCo schools at a 7:30 p.m. contest, tomorrow night, at Sammamish High School.