The Mercer Island Islanders are fighting to stay alive in the state playoffs after falling to the Chief Sealth Seahawks 68-54 at Bellevue College on Tuesday night.
Junior forward Pepe' Hernandez led the way scoring 15 points for the Seahawks (19-6, 11-4) who controlled the tempo of the game from the outset, forcing 17 turnovers with a strong defensive effort.
The Islanders (18-5, 11-3) controlled the opening tip but senior guard Keon Lewis set the tone quickly by stealing the basketball and taking it all the way to the other end. Lewis missed the layup but was fouled and converted both free throws. Moments later the Islanders tied the game when senior Ben Emanuels found junior guard Sam Cohn underneath the basket for a beautiful reverse layup. One minute later Chief Sealth forward D’Nique Harris-Welch went to the line and converted two free throws putting the Seahawks up 4-2. The free throws began a 7-0 Chief Sealth run that gave the Seahawks a lead would never relinquish.
In the waning seconds of the first quarter junior forward Sean Hughes made a layup that broke the Chief Sealth run and the opening frame came to a close with a low score with the Seahawks leading 9-4. Chief Sealth busted the game open in the second quarter by starting it on a 9-0 run which allowed them to carry a 14 point lead into half time.
Trailing 27-13 the Islanders came out with some fire as senior center Kaj Sherman converted a 3-point play on the first possession of the first half which started an 8-2 run that cut the Seahawks lead to single digits. The lead held around 10 points for most of the third quarter until a jump shot from senior forward Quinn Sterling made it 35-28 Chief Sealth. Just when it seemed like Mercer Island might make a comeback the Seahawks struck back as Harris-Welch hit a 3-pointer to push the lead back to ten points as the third quarter came to a close.
The lead remained at 10 points for the first moments of the third quarter but a quick succession of fouls effectively sunk the Islanders. Within the space of about 30 seconds, senior center Kaj Sherman was whistled for three personal fouls in a row—pushing his total to four and sending him to the bench. The Seahawks immediately popped it into fifth gear and opened up a game high 19 point lead by going on a 9-0 run. The Islanders never gave up—clawing back to within eight with 36 seconds to play—but it wasn’t enough as the Seahawks ran away with a 14 point victory.
In addition to Hernandez, three other Seahawks finished the game in double figures. Junior guard Charlie Smith had 12 points and Lewis and Harris-Welch each scored 10 for Chief Sealth. Sterling led the Islanders with 14 points and senior guard Derek Newhof added 13.
After the game Islander head coach Gavin Cree addressed the loss and looked forward.
“We need to come out and want it a little bit more than we did today," he said. "We’ve got guys that have played together and really want this ... There are four teams on that side of the bracket and one team is going to advance. Whoever wants it the most will probably get it done.”
With their backs against the wall, the Islanders now need to win two consecutive games to advance to the regional tournament. They will start that quest on Friday against the Franklin Quakers at 3 p.m. at Bellevue College.