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By Richard Taylor
While much of the village reconstructs itself following Hurricane Dorian, the young Ocracoke varsity boys’ basketball team faces a rebuilding year as well.
Under new coach Frank Moore, the Dolphins are training in the compromised school gym. Following Dorian on Sept. 6, the gym floor was flooded and removed but Athletic Director Adam Burleson had the portable VersaCourt playing surface installed two years ago on the outside basketball court brought into the gym where the students have been training.
So, the scrappy Dolphins played two hard-fought games at the second annual Good Guys vs. Cancer Showcase at Kill Devil Hills’s First Flight High School last weekend. The team showed spunk and promise but remained winless.
In the Friday afternoon game, Northside-Pinetown beat Ocracoke 58-47 while the Hatteras Hurricanes easily ousted the Dolphins Saturday, 62-42, in the annual “Battle for the Paddle.”
Despite the losses, there were good moments.
Many parents and fans traveled to KDH to support the team. At halftime during the Hatteras game, the OBX GoFar running club presented Hyde County School Superintendent Steve Basnight with a $2,500 donation to help Ocracoke School’s rebuilding efforts.
Dolphin junior Mason Fuller was selected Phenom Hoops Most Valuable Ocracoke Player for both games.
Long-time Ocracoke coach David Allewalt who is now coaching the Washington Pam Pack, chatted amicably with his Ocracoke friends before playing East Carteret Saturday morning prior to Ocracoke’s afternoon game against Hatteras.
Former Dolphin Perry Austin, now playing for the East Carteret Mariners scored 16 points in an exciting 78-77 come-from-behind victory in the final seconds over the Pam Pack. Islander Reese Gaskins, a transfer to Washington for his senior year, did not play due to injury.
WOVV, Ocracoke’s community radio station, broadcast Ocracoke’s Saturday game against Hatteras with Peter Vankevich and John Griggs providing play-by-play and statistics while Chad Macek manned the controls back in the studio.
“It’s wonderful to be with all the Ocracoke fans again and watch basketball with them,” Basnight said in an on-air halftime interview. “It was almost like coming home. They looked down and saw me, and I looked up and saw them. All of us grinned. It was really nice.”
The superintendent’s initial post-Dorian goal “was to give these kids their school back.”
“Part of school is the athletic program,” Basnight said. “Adam Burleson and (Principal) Leslie Cole did a phenomenal job letting everyone know that we were still going to be in the game.
“At Ocracoke, the athletic program is phenomenal for the size of the student body,” Basnight told the radio audience. “The talent level is phenomenal. It would have been an injustice not to have given these kids an opportunity to play ball. I’m looking for great things from these kids, from the school and from the island itself. We’ll get back. I know it.”
Basnight also commended First Flight Athletic Director and Basketball Coach Chad Williams for starting the cancer-fighting fundraiser in 2017 in honor of his father, Guy Williams.
“This is just a fantastic tournament,” Basnight said. “The level of talent Chad has been able to bring over in the last two years in honor of his dad is just phenomenal. I could spend a couple of days doing this, anytime.”
After the Dolphin loss to Hatteras Saturday Moore said, “We hurt ourselves. We had too many turnovers and too many mental mistakes. We do play hard — that’s a start. We’re a young team and it’s a long season. We hope to get better every game. There aren’t any easy ones.”
After falling to Hatteras, Moore grinned as he passed the beloved paddle over to Hatteras coach Woody Willis.
In other action, the Dolphins led Columbia 16-10 after the first period before falling to the Wildcats 57-50 in Columbia Tuesday night. The varsity Lady Dolphins, another young team, lost to Columbia 51-34.
Also, Tuesday night at Hatteras, the middle school Lady Dolphins used relentless defense to beat the Hurricanes 38-23 while constant pressure and easy layups led the middle school boys to a 43-17 runaway victory over the Hurricanes in Buxton. Both Ocracoke middle school teams are 2-0 going into the Christmas break.
“Defense wins championships,” middle school coach Jason Wells wrote in a Facebook post following Tuesday’s games. “I’ll say it once, twice or 100 times until they all believe — full court press, and constant ball pressure are how you get easy baskets. I am so proud of how much the boys and girls are improving and working hard.”
Coach Wells posted that Noah O’Neal “got clobbered” and hurt his wrist in the boys’ middle school game. “Please send positive energy, thoughts and prayers or whatever you do, on behalf of Noah,” Wells wrote. “Fingers crossed it’s not a break. We love you, buddy.”