The Bishop Blanchet Braves looked like they were going to set up a three-point shot to potentially force overtime in the 3A girls championship against Mercer Island.
But as Ella DiPietro tried to pass to a wide-open Taylor Chambers, the Islanders’ Claire Mansfield stepped in front of the ball’s path and intercepted it.
Two free throws and 1.8 seconds later, the final buzzer rang. Mercer Island, seeded eighth in the tournament, defeated No. 1-seeded Bishop Blanchet, 52-47, on Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
“I thought to myself, ‘Claire’s got it,’ ” said senior center Anna Luce of Mercer Island. “She’s been doing this kind of thing all year.”
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Luce, a Dartmouth commit, was the biggest offensive threat that the Islanders had. More often than not, Luce was anchoring the middle of the key and putting up tough shots in the face of the Braves’ Jadyn Bush.
“She’s smart. She’s patient and she reads the defense well,” Bush said. “There were a lot of factors in the second half, including letting her get offensive boards and second-chance shots. I think we did go away from what we were doing in the first half.”
Luce was held to four points going into the intermission, and Bishop Blanchet had a five-point lead. But in the second half, the Islanders found their shots again.
Josie Blakeslee knocked down a 3-pointer to spark an 11-0 run at the beginning of the third quarter, and Luce found her confidence after being called out by teammate Kailee Yan.
“I guess I was a little skeptical and nervous in the first half. It was the championship game,” Luce said. “Kailee said to me at halftime, ‘I know you’re so much better than this.’ ”
Luce would finish with 21 points after getting challenged. And Yan would have some shining moments
After DiPietro tied the game with a long 3-pointer, Yan answered back with five straight points to give Mercer Island the lead again.
“My teammates throughout this entire tournament kept encouraging me to do better, and to keep looking for my shot because they knew I could hit it,” Yan said. “It was really good, and Anna (Luce) did a really nice job to set that screen for me.”
Yan had 14 points on the night.
For the Braves, Annie Maher was their key difference maker. Maher would slip in unnoticed behind the Islanders defense and find herself in prime scoring position.
“I looked for opportunities to sneak back behind them,” she said. “My strength is my speed, so I try to use that and find gaps when I can.”
Maher led Bishop Blanchet with 14 points.
“As a player, I got second place here,” Islanders coach Gillian d’Hondt said. “I can’t even imagine what they (her players) are feeling right now. But they deserve it.”