Joe Rasmussen's big play leads Islanders past Wolverines
The 6-foot-7 Rasmussen's all-around dominance led No. 6 Mercer Island to a 66-54 victory over Bellevue.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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MERCER ISLAND — In a back hallway moments after the game, Bellevue's coaches stood in a circle and discussed the impact of one player: Mercer Island center Joe Rasmussen.
Rasmussen, a 6-foot-7 center signed with Seattle Pacific, had just put the finishing touches on a versatile offensive display: Soft hook shots, three-pointers and putbacks after offensive rebounds. That array — and his 27 points and 13 rebounds — was the main topic among Bellevue's coaches after No. 6 Mercer Island's 66-54 win on Friday in a KingCo 3A game.
"He's really improved a lot from last year," Bellevue coach Chris O'Connor said.
Or, as Mercer Island coach Gavin Cree later put it: "He's kind of a dominant player."
Rasmussen, the son of former NBA player Blair Rasmussen, helped Mercer Island (11-1) to an early lead with 17 first-half points, including three three-pointers when Bellevue's defense sagged off. He also had eight points in the fourth quarter.
But Rasmussen received plenty of help. Jake Shaddle, a 5-foot-11 senior guard, delivered a spark off the bench in the first quarter. In less than three minutes, he buried a deep three-pointer, dished out two assists, had a steal and drew a charge.
Shaddle finished 10 points and hit three three-pointers.
"When he's shooting the ball, we're a tough team," Cree said.
The Islanders have shown they're exactly that so far. They just returned from a four-game tournament in Arizona that pitted them against quality out-of-state teams; they only lost once — to a team with a player bound for Ohio State — by one point.
Mercer Island didn't miss a beat on Friday in front of a packed gym. Steeped in the charged atmosphere, one official said during a stoppage for three throws, "This is like doing a playoff game."
Bellevue (6-4) used an 8-0 run to cut Mercer Island's lead to two in the second quarter — the closest the Wolverines would get — but Rasmussen immediately answered with a three-pointer. The Islanders led by nine at halftime and maintained that lead in the second half.
The Wolverines, who played without their two injured point guards, had 12 second-half turnovers and made just 15 of 28 free throws.
Timmy Haehl, who played with the flu, led the Wolverines with 16 points.