It has just been that kind of season for Mercer Island girls basketball.
The 18-1 run by the Liberty Patriots over the final 3:05 on Thursday to win 45-41 was just another game in a seemingly endless string of forgettable performances for the team through their first eight games.
This one, however, hurt the most.
Behind the poor shooting of the Patriots (6-0), who opened the game 2-22 from the field, and the smoother play by Mercer Island’s offense, the Islanders (1-7) were able to build a cushion for themselves. Their nine point halftime lead quickly turned into a 27-14 advantage after a steal and layup by junior Savanna Reid.
The wheels on the Islanders momentum train suddenly began to loosen, as the team suffered a scoring drought for the next 5:11. Junior Kris Brackmann’s three with seven seconds remaining in the third quarter made it 30-18 and seemed to be the revitalizing spark to send the team into the fourth quarter hot.
That spark proved very successful. The Islanders opened up a 38-22 lead behind continued offensive success.
And then it was as if everything came to a screeching halt.
Two Brackmann free throws at the 3:05 mark of the fourth quarter gave the Islanders a 40-27 lead. On Liberty’s next trip down the floor, senior Aspen Winegar successfully converted a three point play. Junior Delane Agnew followed that up immediately with a steal and basket to make it 40-34. While the Islanders, who average nearly 30 turnovers per game, only recorded seven in the first half, the turnover bug suddenly reappeared toward the end. Full court press from Liberty forced ill-advised passes and consequently, turnovers, giving Liberty enough time to get back in it. Two Agnew free throws with 48 seconds remaining made it 40-39. While pressing though, the Patriots fouled Brackmann and sent her to the line. Brackmann split her free throws, providing the Islanders their final tally of the night and making it 41-39.
Then the Patriots went bold.
Senior Stephanie Yea drained a three from the right wing on the next possession to put Liberty ahead for the first time all game. Mercer Island turned it over again, one of their 11 in the final five minutes (23 total), and gave Liberty the chance to win the game at the free throw line. The Patriots knocked home three of their final four and were given a Brackmann turnover as a late present to complete the improbable comeback.
Islanders head coach Jamie Prescott, who called the loss “ridiculously deflating”, said she warned her team in a timeout that the push from Liberty was coming, yet her team was unable to respond.
“To have a complete meltdown, to look as scared as we looked was ridiculous,” said Prescott.
After the progress the team showed Monday in their close loss at Redmond, the loss takes away from what would have been a giant step forward. Still, Prescott believes that there is a lot of good to be taken away from this game, including the continued improvement of junior post Marlo Cafarelli, who finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
Brackmann’s 15 points were a team high on the evening, while Reid contributed 14 on 5-8 shooting after coming off a 1-11 outing on Monday. Liberty was led by Winegar, who racked up 14 points, the only Patriot in double figures.
The Islanders have a chance to build on any progress they have going this weekend but the competition will not be easy. They will travel to Newburg, OR on Saturday and then visit top-ranked Prairie on Monday. The games mark the final two in a brutal stretch of nine straight games away from home to open the season.