Gillian d’Hondt thought of the legacy Anna Luce has left, pondering what she’d like the Mercer Island community to most remember about their standout post.
After a short pause, d’Hondt answered with one word.
“Unstoppable,” she said.
It suits Luce on a few levels.
Luce broke 12 of the Mercer Island girls basketball program’s school records this year — including career points, finishing with 1,700. She led the program to its first state basketball championship, defeating top-ranked Bishop Blanchet, 52-47, in the Class 3A title game. Luce is heading to Dartmouth next year to play basketball and enter the university’s pre-med program.
The 6-foot-2 senior averaged 25.7 points and 10.4 rebounds for the Islanders and is The News Tribune’s 2016-17 all-state girls basketball player of the year.
“Nobody could stop her,” said d’Hondt, who was a dominant post herself at Bishop Blanchet before playing at the University of the Pacific and professionally overseas. “They would try. There were times people would box-and-one us and we still found a way to get it to her. She was relentless.”
Mercer Island is known for its rich boys basketball history under Ed Pepple, who retired in 2009 as the winningest coach in state history with 952 career victories in his 49 seasons. Mercer Island’s boys teams have reached state 33 times with four state titles.
Before this year, the Mercer Island girls had nine state tournament appearances, six wins and no state titles.
At Bishop Blanchet, d’Hondt went to the state title game in 2000, losing to Meadowdale. But she knew what it took to get there.
And she wasn’t seeing it at Mercer Island.
“I stopped a couple practices earlier in the season,” said d’Hondt, who just finished her second year coaching the Islanders. “But I remember there was one where I was like, ‘You know, girls, I don’t think this is a championship practice right now. I was there as a player and I know what they look like. You got to pick it up.’
“But you look back on it now and it’s like, ‘OK, some of those must have been championship practices,’ ” d’Hondt laughed.
Luce remembers d’Hondt getting on her case a few times.
Most of it was for her to play more aggressively and not rely so much on her jump shot even though the left-hander was so effective with it. Luce shot 56 percent from the floor this season and made eight 3-pointers.
But d’Hondt’s playing style was old-school, physical play in the paint. She told Luce before the state tournament that she’d need to average about 16 rebounds per game if Mercer Island wanted to win the title.
Luce had 27 points and 17 rebounds in Mercer Island’s first-round win against Bethel. And in the title game, she dominated in the paint, scoring 17 of her 21 points in the second half against d’Hondt’s alma mater.
“That was definitely her emphasis on me this year was to rebound more and not shy away from contact,” Luce said. “And she wasn’t afraid to let me know that’s what I needed, especially after a few off games.”
Luce has wanted to advance as far as she can in basketball since attending Mercer Island basketball camps in elementary school. Now, her 1,700 career points is more than Lexie Richards’ 1,295 set from 1995-99 and more than the boys record of 1,533 points set by Terik Brown from 1992-95.
Neither of Luce’s parents played basketball past high school. Her mother, Tammy, graduated from Mercer Island before attending the University of Puget Sound and her father, Nate, played sports at Bellarmine Prep. But her grandfather, David Odegaard, was drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1966 in the 20th round.
Luce’s AAU coach is Barbara Berry, who was a member of Mercer Island’s first varsity girls basketball team during the 1973-74 season before playing at UW.
“Barbara was there to watch them win the state title on Saturday and her and I were sobbing and crying,” said Tammy Luce. “She led that first Mercer Island team and now Anna’s team got to bring it home.”
“I think it’s really cool that she is my mentor and to see all the hard work she put in and that I could give back to the program,” Luce said. “I have watched many coaches and players come through here and it was always a dream just to go to state. To win state is really cool.”
After Luce, d’Hondt didn’t play anybody else taller than 5-7. She knows players like Luce don’t come around often.
“I’m going to miss her,” d’Hondt said.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
TNT ALL-STATE GIRLS BASKETBALL
Player of the year: Anna Luce, Mercer Island, sr.
Coach of the year: Kim Preston, Mount Baker
G Oumou Toure, Kamiakin, 6-0, so. — In her two years, she’s already scored 1,049 points and led the Braves to fifth- and fourth-place finishes at state.
23.7 points, 12.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists
F Jadyn Bush, Bishop Blanchet, 5-11, sr. — Harvard committ was four-year starter for Braves with her ability to play wing and post.
20 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists
F Lexie Hull, Central Valley, 6-2, jr. — Stanford commit has led Bears to a 73-6 record in her three years, including a Class 4A state title.
16.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.2 steals
F Anna Luce, Mercer Island, 6-2, sr. — Darthmouth-bound post shattered school record for career points with 1,700 and led Islanders to first title.
25.7 points, 10.4 rebounds
F Jill Townsend, Okanogan, 5-11, sr. — One of the nation’s top recruits. “Jill is one of the toughest players I have ever seen,” said Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier.
20.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, 4 steals
23.0 points, 12.2 rebounds, 3.3 blocks (1,934 career points)
F Taya Corosdale, Bothell, sr.
18.7 points, 10.9 rebounds
G Paisley Johnson, Glacier Peak, sr.
15.8 points, 6 rebounds, 3.7 assists
15.8 points, 11.3 rebounds
G Hailey Van Lith, Cashmere, fr.
23.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists