By Richard Taylor
The Ocracoke boys varsity basketball team opened their 2018-19 season with decisive home wins against non-conference opponents in the week before Thanksgiving.
Led by juniors Perry Austin and Reese Gaskins, each with 19 points, the Dolphins downed the Terra Ceia Christian Knights of Beaufort County 70-53 in the season opener Nov. 16. Gaskins sank four 3-pointers in the second period. Mason Fuller and Kalai Samick each scored 10 points for the game.
Dolphins head coach David Allewalt felt Ocracoke played well.
“I was pleased with the first half,” he said. “We had a really good second quarter.” The Dolphins were up 30 points, 44-14, at the half. “But I think we got a little bit lackadaisical in the second half, and they made a game of it. After we went to full-court pressure, we didn’t let them get close enough to where the game was really in jeopardy.”
Sophomore Cole Gilbert fouled out with 30 seconds left in the game.
Four players scored in double digits in that first game. “That’s good balance,” Allewalt said. Gaskins was selected Ocracoke Player-of-the-Game against Terra Ceia.
The Nov. 20 game against the Perquimans Pirates was much closer as the Dolphins held on to win 63-53 after leading 41-30 at the half. Gaskins again led the Dolphins with 18 points. Perry Austin finished with 15 points, Mason Fuller had 13 and Sam Evans had 12.
Last year’s second leading scorer, Colby Austin, missed these first two games due to an injury. Cole Gilbert also missed playing against Perquimans due to injury.
Also playing this week were the Dolphins boys JV team that lost to Perquimans, 62-35. Trailing 18-3 after the first quarter, the young Dolphins played hard for the entire game and gained experience against a bigger, better team. The Pirates were fast and had a swarming defense that provided few open shots for the Dolphins. Game stats were not available.
Can Ocracoke repeat as conference champions? “I hope so,” said Allewalt. “That’s one of our team goals. So as long as we stay healthy and continue to grow as a team and get better each week, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t compete for the conference title.”
Allewalt admitted it would be hard to replace last year’s captain and team leader Liam Caswell.
“I think the biggest obstacle we need to overcome early in the season is just to find some players that can step up for us and show some real good leadership qualities and keep things in tune,” Allewalt said.
Sophomores Dylan Esham and Christian Trejo and junior Paul Jordan moved up from last year’s JV squad. Sophomores Cole Gilbert, Mason Fuller, juniors Perry Austin, Gaskins, and seniors Colby Austin, Sam Evans and Kalai Samick return from last year’s conference championship team. The three seniors are team captains.
Allewalt feels Austin can become one of the team’s vocal leaders after he returns from injury.
“If someone can step up and do that, I think that once the competitive nature kicks in for everybody, I feel leadership will naturally take over,” he said.
In this year’s Holiday Invitational Tournament, Dec. 14 to 15, the Dolphins will host East Carteret — the team that kicked Ocracoke out of their first-ever state playoff tournament last winter. “That’s who we’re going to play first,” Allewalt said, “I just want to see where we stand.”
The Atlantic 1A Conference was reduced to five teams this year. Washington County closed Creswell School near the Tyrrell County border, choosing to bus those students to Plymouth.
As for other conference teams, Bear Grass returns all their players from last year.
“Cape Hatteras will be improved, and Columbia is always athletic, so they’re a challenge as well,” Allewalt said. “I don’t know much about Mattamuskeet. All in all, we’re going to have to play good basketball against all the teams in the conference to be successful.”
The Dolphins next challenge comes against the Washington High (2A) Pam Pack Tuesday (Nov. 27) in Washington.
The team also will take part in the Good Guys vs. Cancer fundraising basketball tournament Dec. 7 and 8 at First Flight High School in Kitty Hawk. The Dolphins will play at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 8.