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By Richard Taylor
The Dolphins boys’ varsity basketball team hopes to bounce back from four recent road losses and injury to a key player as they prepare for the eighth Annual Ocracoke High School Holiday Basketball Scholarship Tournament this weekend.
Last season’s Atlantic 6 Conference champion, the Dolphins started the season with convincing late November home wins over Terra Ceia Christian and Perquimans County.
The Dolphins then began a four-game road trip, with a 73-63 loss to Washington’s 2A Pam Pack, Nov. 27, with Reese Gaskins scoring 20 points.
In a Nov. 30 rematch, the Dolphins fell to the Perquimans Pirates, 70-64 in Hertford. Perry Austin led the Dolphins with 23 points, followed by Mason Fuller and Gaskins with 13 each.
The Dolphins came back home Dec. 4 to overcome conference rival Columbia 70-42 after struggling to find their rhythm in the first period.
“I think we started a little flat,” Coach David Alewalt said. “Then we regrouped and got off to a really good start and played aggressive after half time. Reese kept us motivated and gave us the spark we needed to put the game away. This allowed me to play some kids that really haven’t played a lot this year, so they could get some experience. Everyone chipped in tonight. It was a nice job on everyone’s part.”
Gaskins led all scorers with 23 points against Columbia. Cole Gilbert netted 15.
What has Gaskins done to become the team’s leading scorer with an 18.6 average this year?
“I like to play hard,” he said, “but I’ve still got to pick up the pace and play harder.”
On the road again, Ocracoke lost a close Dec. 6 game at Camden County, 55-48, despite outscoring the Bruins 13-9 in the fourth quarter.
On Dec. 8, the Dolphins fell to the Northside-Pinetown Panthers from Beaufort County, 67-51, at the Good Guys vs. Cancer Classic charity game at First Flight High School in Kill Devil Hills.
The Dolphins had won last season’s conference tournament in Columbia, then for the first time ever, won a first-round state playoff game Feb. 20 at home against the Union High Spartans from Rose Hill.
The energy, tenacity and competitive drive that propelled Ocracoke’s most successful ever varsity boys’ basketball team last season flamed out Feb. 22 as the ninth-seeded Dolphins came up short in the east playoffs against eighth-seeded East Carteret, 57-44, in Beaufort.
The Ocracoke JV team lost 76-29 at Washington on Nov. 27, and beat Columbia 49-39 at home, Dec. 4. The younger Dolphins played Camden County Dec. 6 in Camden. That score was unavailable.
Despite four road losses, the (varsity) Dolphins are 3-0 at home this year. East Carteret has lost its first three games so far this season. Allewalt hopes Friday’s home turf rematch against the Mariners will even the series.
“I’m ready for them,” Gaskins said about the rematch against East Carteret in the Friday night tournament. “I’m excited. They’ve lost a lot of seniors, so they’re not going to be as good this year. I think we have a shot at beating them.”
“We need to box out and get rebounds. That’s what we struggled with against them last year. We’re working hard in practice.”
Expect a packed house this weekend.
Colby Austin, one of last year’s leading players, will be out until after Christmas with a shoulder injury.
Gateway Christian from Virginia Beach returns to the Tank this year to take on the East Carteret Girls at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
The Whiteville boys play the Gateway boys at 6 p.m. Ocracoke’s boys play East Carteret at 7:30 p.m. The Dolphins did not field a varsity girls’ team this year.
Friday’s losers will play a boys’ consolation game at 11 a.m. Saturday. The winner of the East Carteret vs. Gateway girls’ game will play the Hatteras Hurricanes (who received a first-round bye) for the 12:30 p.m. girls championship game.
The boys’ championship game commences at 2 p.m. Saturday, followed by awards, trophies and the $2,000 scholarship presentation. The Ocracoke School Boosters sponsors the tournament and provides funds for the scholarship, aided by a $1,000 donation from SmacNallys.
For the scholarship, each team selects one senior scholarship applicant who must play in the tournament and have an unweighted 3.1 (or 3.6 weighted) grade point average. They must submit an essay, a resume, and two letters of recommendation and answer questions from the scholarship committee.
“Ocracoke School wishes all the best to the teams,” said Principal Leslie Cole. “We look forward to a competitive tournament with great sportsmanship.”
Cole’s husband Bill, the “Voice of the Dolphins,” will provide play-by-play for both Dolphin’s games on WOVV 90.1 FM and online at wovv.rocks.