Mercer Island started the third quarter with nine straight points and outscored Everett 35-16 in the game's final 16 minutes, beating the Seagulls 57-44 in a 3A state tournament regional game Friday night at Glacier Peak High School.
"We couldn't get in that fifth gear," Everett head coach John Low said. "And it was (because of) them. They kept us from dictating the pace."
The Islanders' defense limited Everett to just four field goals in the second half, with the remaining eight points coming from the free throw line. After giving up 16 points to Everett's Darian Rielly in the first half, Mercer Island held her to two points the rest of the way.
Sidney Rielly, who finished the game with 15 points, had nine in the second half.
Low attributed the second-half demise to his team's inability to find its offensive rhythm and Mercer Island's aggressive defense.
"It was a little bit of both," Low said. "They do a real good job of help-side defense clogging up the paint. They tightened defense on Darian and Sidney Rielly on the perimeter. They're long. They have size in their guards and wings."
Everett's offense started the game a bit slow as well, with its first points coming from a pair of Sidney Rielly free throws 3 minutes and 43 seconds into the game. The Seagulls' first field goal was a 3-pointer by Darian Rielly a minute and a half later.
Everett got things moving a bit in the second quarter, outscoring Mercer Island 16-14 to take a 28-22 lead at halftime.
Then things got rough.
The Islanders started the third quarter with a 15-2 run. The third was nearly halfway complete before Everett guard Kiki Harper made two free throws -- the Seagulls' first points of the second half. Sidney Rielly made a driving layin -- and added a free throw after being fouled on the play -- three minutes later to jumpstart a 6-0 Everett run that brought the Seagulls to within four points by the end of the period.
But it took Everett five minutes to get its first fourth-quarter field goal -- a layup by Darian Rielly -- and by that point Mercer Island already had opened up an 11-point lead.
Rebounding was part of the key for Mercer Island. While the Islanders had a slim 40-38 rebounding advantage, 13 of them came on the offensive end of the court. The other 27 ended Everett scoring opportunities.
"We knew they were a strong rebounding team," Low said. "They did a good job of not giving us any second-chance points."
Meanwhile, the Islanders' offense continued to roll. Senior guard/forward Kris Brackmann led Mercer Island with 17 points and eight rebounds. Sisters Rachel and Renae Tessam added 14 and 11 points respectively for the Islanders -- who made nine of 10 free throws in the final quarter to put the game away.
Despite doing its best to scout its opponents, Low said that Mercer Island (20-7 overall) -- which finished third in the Kingco 3A/2A league -- were somewhat of a mystery coming into the game.
"They were a little bit of an unknown to us. Coming out I think our girls were a little unsure what to expect," Low said.
Despite having their season end sooner than they had hoped, Low praised the Seagulls for a strong showing in an up-and-down season that featured five players being suspended for violating the Everett School District Code of Conduct and missing most of the month of January.
"There's definitely optimism for next year, but I'm so proud of the girls for how they battled things," Low said. "I don't think we had a player play in every game this season, for a variety of reasons like illnesses, injuries and suspensions."
Everett (13-11) graduates only three seniors -- guards Kiki Harper and Bailey McMullen and post Rosie Sittauer -- meaning most of the Seagulls will return from an Everett team that got to state for the first time since 1996.
"The basketball we played the last three games is probably the best basketball Everett High has played in 17 years," Low said. "I thought our girls played hard all year. We're disappointed to have it end this way, but we were district champs and every team but one ends with a loss. I told the girls they have a lot to be proud of."
At Glacier Peak H.S.
Mercer Island 8 14 18 17 -- 57
Everett 12 16 8 8 -- 44
Mercer Island–Jess Blakeslee 7, Julia Blumenstein 2, Kris Brackmann 17, Marlo Cafarelli 0, Suri Johnson 2, Ari Moscatel 0, Jamie Mounger 4, Rachael Tessem 14, Renae Tessem 11, Christina Williamson 0. Everett–Amber Hagar0 , Kiki Harper 8, Katy Hedington 0, Bailey McMullen 0, Caroline Overstreet 0, Julie Ramirez 0, Darian Rielly 18, Sidney Rielly 15, Madison Rutledge 0, Rosie Sittauer 0, Sydney Taggart 2, Tenika Wentworth 1. 3-point goals–D. Rielly 3, Brackmann 2, Mounger 1, Blakeslee 1. Records–Mercer Island 21-7 overall. Everett 13-11.
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