By Richard Taylor
The energy, tenacity and competitive drive that propelled Ocracoke School’s most successful varsity boys’ basketball team in the school’s history flamed out Thursday night in Beaufort, as the ninth-seeded Dolphins came up short against eighth-seeded East Carteret, 57-44.
Having advanced for the first-time ever in the second round of the state 1A East playoffs, the Dolphins just could not find their groove in the low-scoring game against the Mariners.
While the Dolphins’ aggressive defense did produce many steals throughout the game, the team had trouble converting turnovers into points all night long.
The team trailed 17-14 after the first period, 30-20 at the half, and was 40-25 at the end of three periods.
Even with 1:05 remaining, the Dolphins were only behind by eight points, 52-44, a margin within reach. But despite their valiant effort, the team just could not catch up.
Team captain Liam Caswell fouled out with 30 seconds left in the contest and received a standing ovation from the crowd, which included good representation from Ocracoke.
Coach Dave Allewalt then took Darvin Contreras out of the game with 20 seconds left so that he also could also receive a standing ovation.
All nine Dolphins played in this historic and final game of the season.
Though the Dolphins outscored the Mariners 19-17 in final period, it wasn’t enough to overcome their deficit. Complete game stats were unavailable.
“You can’t say enough about what a historical season it’s been for our guys,” Burleson said at the end of his play-by-play on WOVV 90.1.
He noted that a team sometimes takes on the personality of its best player, which in this case was Caswell, who ends his high school basketball career as the conference player of the year.
“They were so confident and so much fun to watch this year,” Burleson said with 20 seconds left in the game. “I see a lot of our middle school guys here. So, they can see what it takes to play on the varsity level. This program’s going to retool with the JV.”
For the first time in Dolphins history, this team won a state tournament game Feb. 20 in a first-round playoff game at home against the Union High Spartans of Rose Hill.
“They are well-coached,” said islander Ken DeBarth about the Dolphins after that victory. “They know the fundamentals and execute them well.” That observation matches the fact that Allewalt was named the Atlantic 6 coach of the year.
Of the nine members of this cohesive team, they will lose only seniors Caswell and Contreras. Caswell averaged 23 points and nine rebounds per game. Contreras, the point guard, is a super ball handler and defensive player who had a team high of more than 70 steals this season.
Burleson said that the seven returning members plus upcoming players from this year’s JV team will make for a promising season next year.
“We see a lot of our Dolphin fans coming onto the floor,” he said as the final buzzer sounded and the crowd dispersed. “There’s lots of handshakes all around. East Carteret’s coming over to shake hands with us. This is really a cool atmosphere, to be honest with you, but it just didn’t turn out in our favor.”
Numerous former islanders and island aficionados from the Morehead City and Beaufort areas showed up for the game.
Due to the distance from Ocracoke, the team and some parents spent the night in Morehead City and returned to the village Friday afternoon on the Cedar Island ferry.