Mercer Island had a terrible time getting started in last night's KingCo 3A Conference boys basketball game against visiting Sammamish. The finish was no problem. The Islanders battled back...

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MERCER ISLAND — Mercer Island had a terrible time getting started in last night’s KingCo 3A Conference boys basketball game against visiting Sammamish.


The finish was no problem.


The Islanders battled back from a double-digit deficit and pulled away for a 55-44 victory. Mercer Island which trailed by five with six minutes remaining, closed the game with a 17-1 burst.


“We all got active on defense,” senior Ryan Iani said after the Islanders improved to 4-2 overall, 3-1 in KingCo 3A. “Our problem is, we don’t start that at the beginning of the game. We start it in the second half. Changing that is gonna be our goal.”


Iani scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half and fellow senior Noah Blakney scored 17 of his game-high 18 after intermission as the Islanders turned that defensive effort into offensive production.


Sammamish (2-3, 1-2) raced into the lead at the opening tip-off and built its edge to 18-7 early in the second quarter. The Totems still held a 43-38 lead with six minutes left but did not score another field goal.


The go-ahead basket came when Islanders guard Alex Stuck knocked the ball loose on a Sammamish drive in the lane, lunged ahead for the ball and, while falling to the floor, scooped an underhanded pass ahead to Blakney.


“I saw the loose ball and I thought we had possession,” said Blakney, who turned upcourt and took the pass for an easy layup and a 44-43 Islanders’ lead. “Alex made an incredible play.”


Blakney followed with two free throws, then made another layup on a cross-court pass from Stuck after M.I. spread the floor to work the clock. That was good for a 49-43 lead with 2:32 to play, and the Islanders made six of seven free throws to close it out.


Sammamish junior Jaz Giacchetti scored nine of his team-high 15 points in the first quarter as the Totems jumped to a 16-7 lead on 6-for-9 shooting from the floor. They still led 23-16 until Islanders junior Kael Kristof drilled a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to trim the deficit to 23-19.


“Basically that first half was the worst half of basketball I’ve seen since I’ve been at Mercer Island,” Islanders coach Ed Pepple said.


Since Pepple has merely coached there for 38 years and amassed a state-record 876 victories, he may have dabbled in hyperbole. Still, after losing five seniors from last year’s Class 3A state-tournament team, the young Islanders are taking some time to find their footing.


“They were playing well, no doubt about it,” Pepple said of the Totems. “But it was like none of us were on the same page.”


Kristof and Carter Newhof scored eight points each for Mercer Island. Junior twins Danny and Thomas Bright added 11 and 9 points, respectively, for Sammamish.




Other games




At Issaquah 53, Newport 50


The sixth-ranked Eagles barely held on for a victory after taking a 20-point lead into the fourth quarter. Neil Chalmers scored nine of his 12 points for the Knights (3-2, 1-2) during their 31-point fourth quarter. Garrison Carr led Issaquah (7-0, 4-0) with 16 points.




Bellevue 55, at Liberty 48


Kevin Stangvik scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter as the Wolverines (1-4, 1-1) pulled away for their first victory. Bryce Hockett led the Patriots (1-6, 0-4) with 11 points.




Interlake 57, at Mount Si 40


Interlake finished the game on a 16-6 run and Jimmy King led four Saints in double figures with 20 points in a victory over the Wildcats (4-3, 2-2). Bryce Brigham added 15 points for the Saints (5-2, 2-2). Erik Tierney led Mount Si with 16.