Islanders, Knights rock 'Cats

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The mighty oak that is the Mount Si basketball program shuddered

last week under the assault of twin buzzsaws wielded by the Mercer

Island and Newport basketball programs. By week's end, the

Wildcats had startlingly dropped two games in a row and had

unceremoniously dropped into second place in the KingCo 3A Valley Division

behind Sammamish.

Playing at home last Tuesday night the 5-0, Valley Division-leading

Wildcats quickly found themselves attempting to play the other team's

game and came out on the short end, 61-49. The Islanders relied on a tough,

fast defense that seemed to bewilder the Mount Si squad, and then

concentrated on deadly shooting accuracy and rebounds to ice the contest.

The stands at the Mount Si gym were absolutely packed, but the

big Mercer Island squad brought a sizable contingent of their own which

helped to rock the joint. The Islanders quickly set up their game, going up 17-10

by the end of the first period and then motoring away. For their part,

the `Cats appeared a tad flat and overwhelmed, unable to rely on their

usual offensive weapons.

Mount Si scored first to open the second half on a Isaiah Cormier

basket which put the team within four points, but once again, the

Islanders danced away. At just under four minutes in the third, Mike Dahm scored

a beautiful one-handed layup off a steal which put Mount Si within one

point, but that's as close as the home team ever got.

Late fouls and the tenacious Mercer Island shooters and blockers

eventually did in the Wildcats. Every time the `Cats fouled someone, the

Islanders treated it like money in the bank, sinking 10 of 14 from the charity

line in the fourth quarter alone.

With just over one minute left in the contest, senior guard Ben

Eaton drained a three-pointer which left him looking startled, but all it did was

bring Mount Si within ten points again.

Cormier ended the scoring by swishing for three just before

the buzzer, but the game was already long over.

Cormier and Jason Arriaga finished with 14 points each, the

only Wildcats to score in double digits. Mike Dahm wrapped with nine,

while the normally dominating Chris Kaplan completed the contest with six.

"The lack of execution on offense hurt us," said a subdued coach

Garrick Phillips afterwards. "They took us

out of things that we wanted to do and disrupted our flow offensively.

We knew that man for man we were better than their team, but basketball

is more than just man for man, and they came out and executed."

The loss put the `Cats at 5-1 and 10-3 overall, tied with Sammamish

for first in the Valley Division. It also left them battered and bruised and

facing a 5-1 Newport squad that Friday night in Bellevue.

"We're going to bounce back," said Phillips. "I told the guys we

had a big game Friday in a hostile environment and we've got to

regroup. This will hurt tonight, but by the time we get to practice, we'll be over it

and looking ahead."

Unfortunately, the boys didn't completely recover by Friday

night's away game at Newport. Despite a valiant offensive effort that saw

Arriaga plunk a season-high 28 points, the `Cats went down again, 87-67.

The Knights came out shooting, scoring 29 points to Mount Si's 10

in the first quarter, and from there it was a cakewalk. Mount Si rolled 26

to Newport's 13 in the third, but the rest of the time it was the Bellevue

school that was applying the pounding.

Once again, the `Cats had trouble handling a team with a quick,

aggressive defense and was unable to put up enough points to remain within

striking distance. Other than Arriaga's strong night, only Cormier was

able to score in two figures, notching 10 points in the losing effort.

The Wildcats had a three-day weekend to lick their wounds and

then returned to the hardwood Tuesday night with a home game against

1-5/3-9 Issaquah. They play at home again this Friday, taking on 1-6/4-10

Liberty. The JVs hit the court at 5:45, followed by the varsity at 7:30 p.m.

While Mount Si is still in strong position for the Valley Division

flag and post-season play, next week could tell the tale when they take on

two .500-teams, Skyline and Interlake.

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