Cailey Byrum of the Camden County team, receives the tournament scholarship. With her are parents Gene, left, and Lisa. Photo by Richard Taylor

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By Richard Taylor

The addition of a scholarship added a deeper dimension to the 7th Annual Holiday Basketball Scholarship Tournament over the weekend that the First Flight Nighthawks won in both the boys and girls matches.

Cailey Byrum of the Camden County Bruins captured the $2,000 prize.  

The Ocracoke School Boosters and SmacNally’s Restaurant each donated $1,000 for which each of the eight teams selected one senior to compete. To be eligible, each athlete had to have a 3.1 unweighted GPA, write an essay on a topic selected by the scholarship committee, submit a resume and two letters of recommendation, play in the tournament and interview with the scholarship committee Friday afternoon.

In her essay, Byrum wrote about her extra-curricular school activities.

“I have really big aspirations for myself,” she said after her win. “So I think that played a part in my drive for writing my essay and creating my portfolio. I’m very proud of myself.”

Byrum said she plans to major in psychology at East Carolina next fall, studying to become a child-life and pediatric oncology specialist.

Lupita Martinez (11) tips off against Lilly Cartwright Camden of Camden County. Photo by Casey Robertson

“She works very hard; she does homework between games; she does volunteer work,” said Lisa Byrum, Cailey’s mother. “I can’t ask for a better daughter. I’m so excited she won.”

Cailey’s father, Gene Byrum, was equally proud of his daughter’s accomplishments.

“She’s amazing,” he said. “She does much better than I could ever do.”

Ingrid Contreras and Liam Caswell were nominated for Ocracoke.­­

“The scholarship committee was blown away by the athletic talent, academic achievement, community involvement and personal dedication of these young men and women,” said Ocracoke School Assistant Principal Mary McKnight in announcing the recipient Saturday afternoon.

Dolphins Coach David Allewalt had said in a prior interview that tournament organizers earlier this year added the scholarship to emphasize that academics are as important as sports achievements.

This was the Byrum family’s first trip to Ocracoke.

“It’s like a Hallmark movie,” Lisa said about the island. “It’s so beautiful. Everybody was so wonderful.  It takes you back and it lets you get away from time.”

In game action, the Ocracoke teams managed only one win, but easily won the hearts and respect of locals and visitors alike with their drive, enthusiasm and sportsmanship over the four-game contest.

Friday evening, the Lady Dolphins lost to the Gateway Christian Crusaders (4-8) from Virginia Beach 70-21. Ingrid Contreras led the team with 7 points, followed by Taylor Fuller with 6 and Hannah Belch with 3. Vanessa Lora and Iris Trejo each scored 2 points, followed by Lupita Martinez with 1.  Stats for Gateway were unavailable.

The girls First Flight Nighthawks (5-4) defeated Camden County (2-8) 37-21 in the first round and won the tournament on Saturday beating Gateway 58-31. The boys First Flight team (8-1) beat the Camden County Bruins 80-65 in the first round going on to win the tournament Saturday with their victory over Ocracoke.

The Dolphins boys won Friday’s nightcap 58-31 over Gateway (4-8). Both teams started slow concluding the first quarter in a 6-6 tie. The Dolphins began to heat up in the second, ending the first half with a 23-14 lead and outscored the Crusaders 37-17 in the second half.

Junior Colby Austin led the Dolphins with 15 points, including three 3-pointers. Liam Caswell scored 11 points, Kalai Samick and Mason Fuller had 10 each, Cole Gilbert and Sam Evans had 4 each, Darvin Contreras scored 3 and Perry Austin had 1. The Dolphins shot 49 percent from the floor with six 3-pointers.

In Saturday morning’s consolation game, the Dolphins girls lost to the Camden County Bruins, 53-30. Ingrid Contreras scored 15 points, followed by Vanessa Lora, 11 and Taylor Fuller, 4. Hannah Ferebee was high scorer for the Bruins with 12 points.

In the afternoon championship game, poor 3-point shooting and erratic defense doomed the Dolphin boys against 2A powerhouse the First Flight Nighthawks of Kitty Hawk, who won 86-54.  Ocracoke is in the lower 1A Atlantic Six conference.

It seemed like First Flight point guard Dylan Blake could not miss from beyond the arch, as the superstar nailed four 3-pointers, three in the first half.  Even though they showed valiant hustle and drive, the Dolphins could not keep pace with the Nighthawks’ larger, more experienced team, especially from 3-point land and from under the basket.

First Flight scored 42 points from beyond the arch; the Dolphins had 24 in eight out of 21 attempts. Blake, just a sophomore, was their high scorer with 23 points and picked up tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors.

The Nighthawks are 8-1 and their only loss this season was to undefeated Division 3-A Northside-Jacksonville.

Both First Flight teams carried winning trophies home to Kitty Hawk, as the Lady Nighthawks beat Gateway 58-31 in the girl’s championship. Lady Dolphin Ingrid Contreras made the all-tournament team.

Perry Austin battles for rebound in Dolphins championship loss to First Flight. Photo by Richard Taylor

Senior Liam Caswell led the Dolphins in scoring in the championship game with 28 points. Darvin Contreras, Reese Gaskins and Mason Fuller each had 5, and Colby Austin had 3 points. 

Despite game losses, Allewalt said it was a good tournament.

“They (the Nighthawks) scored 27 points off 25 rebounds,” he said about the final game. “You can’t have that.”

Allewalt said the team missed Kalai Samick, who was out for the last game with a bum knee and is the second leading scorer after Caswell.

WOVV radio play-by-play announcer Bill Cole said the Lady Dolphins are a work-in-progress.

“A lot of the players are new to the team this year and new to a higher level of competition,” he said, “but they keep fighting and they keep working hard. We’ll look to see them improve, which is what you want from high school athletes.”

As for the Dolphins, Cole said they had some shining but also some sloppy moments in the final game.

“But they never quit and they never gave up,” Cole said. “They fought to get in this one. I look for a lot of big things out of that team this year. They are not going to play a (Division 2) team like First Flight from outside our conference week-in and week-out.”

The Dolphin boys next play in the Perquimans Holiday Tournament against the Currituck County Knights in Barco at 4 p.m. Thursday, Dec 28.

The Lady Dolphins will take on the Pamlico County Hurricanes (Bayboro) in the Crystal Coast Christmas Classic Tournament in Morehead City at 4 p.m. Dec 21.

Camden’s Brock Colson (5) drives. Photo by Casey Robertson
The victorious First Flight Nighthawks team. Photo: C. Leinbach
Perry Austin, right, shoots for Ocracoke. Tournament MVP Dylan Blake, no. 4 for First Flight, is center. Darvin Contreras is second from right. Photo: C. Leinbach
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