By Richard Taylor
COLUMBIA — The Ocracoke Dolphins almost pulled off another last-minute miracle win Wednesday night against the Bear Grass Bears in the Atlantic 5 Conference Tournament title game, but they lost by two points, 75-73, in double overtime.
Behind by nine points at the half, 34-25, the Dolphins found their groove and fought back to 63-57 after three periods.
Midway through the fourth period, the Dolphins tied the game 63-63 on a Mason Fuller 3-pointer. With less than a minute remaining, Sam Evans sank two free throws to give the Dolphins their first lead of the game, 65-63.
Single foul shots by Colby Austin and Evans gave the Dolphins a 67-64 lead with less than a minute remaining. Hope was in the air.
Austin and conference player-of-the-year Lelon Stotesberry traded free throws until Ocracoke was ahead, 69-66.
Bear Grass wasn’t ready to give up. With one second remaining on the clock, the six-foot, three-inch senior center hit a long-range 3-pointer, tying the game at 69-69 and sending it into overtime.
Neither team scored in the first four-minute extra period, prompting a second overtime. Then, a 3-pointer by Reese Gaskins gave the Dolphins a brief 73-72 lead with 2:28 remaining.
A subsequent layup and foul shot by Stotesberry put the Bears up 75-73. Hampered by the absence of a sick Kalai Samick and Cole Gilbert and Perry Austin having fouled out, the Dolphins never made another shot before the end.
Reese Gaskins led the Dolphins in scoring with 27 points, including five 3-pointers. Team leader Colby Austin had 24 points including five 3-pointers. Mason Fuller scored eight points, Sam Evans had seven, Perry Austin finished with six and Gilbert had two.
But this was just a tournament loss. “This game is really of no consequence for the state seedings,” Ocracoke School Athletic Director Adam Burleson, who called the game, told the WOVV 90.1 FM radio audience.
Since the Dolphins won the regular season conference championship, they will return to the gym Tuesday at 6 p.m. for a state 1A playoff game with an opponent to be determined after all of the state conference championships are completed.
The long bus ride back to the Hatteras ferry Wednesday night left much time for reflection and what-ifs. But at midnight, Hatteras was fogged-in. While Coach David Allewalt and driver Denny Widener stayed on the activity bus, Athletic Director Adam Burleson released the players to their parents so they could stay overnight in a nearby motel.
Allewalt will be a guest on Peter Vankevich’s “What’s Happening on Ocracoke” WOVV interview show at 11:30 a.m. Friday.