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By Richard Taylor
Two touching moments–one before tip-off in Ocracoke’s 58-56 state playoff loss to the Chatham Central Bears Tuesday night, and one following that game–said as much about Dolphins’ basketball and the community which supports them than merely the final score in the final home game of a remarkable season.
Before the National Anthem and player introductions, Charles Temple directed fans’ attention to the rafters of the gym. He pulled a rope attached to a sheet, revealing a gleaming new white banner hanging above the stage-side of mid-court.
Temple articulated the dark blue letters with enthusiasm: “Atlantic 1A Conference Champions, 2018 to 2019,” he said. Dolphin fans clapped and roared their approval.
Yes, the Dolphins are league champions for the second straight year. The banner represents their 11-1 regular season record.
Tuesday night’s game was tied 21-21 after the first quarter. Ocracoke led 34-30 at the half; then, fell behind 50-49 after three periods. Missed shots, turnovers and an aggressive Bears defense kept the Dolphins from winning the hard-fought game in the end.
Not that the team did not try. Colby Austin missed a 3-pointer with 29 seconds left. Coach David Allewalt called two time outs with under 15 seconds left to plot strategy. Reese Gaskins missed a desperate 3-point corner attempt with :06 left.
The game was over. High school careers for Colby Austin, Sam Evans and Kalai Samick also were over.
Gaskins led the Dolphins with 19 points. Colby Austin had 15. Both hit four 3-pointers. Senior Jamieon Degraffenreaidt led the Bears with 19. Sophomore Michael Moore had 18.
Normally, Dolphin players would leave the Tank following games and quickly go home. But Tuesday night, the team sat around three tables set up on the stage and exchanged small talk.
Coach Allewalt passed out pepperoni pizza, but said little. There would be time for reflection later.