By Peter Vankevich
In an unofficial homecoming of sorts, basketball returned to the newly reopened Ocracoke gym on Friday.
The first home basketball games since February 2019 included a special thank-you to East Carteret High School for hospitality shown to Ocracoke students following Hurricane Dorian.
The atmosphere was joyful in the newly refurbished gym, as parents and fans packed the bleachers. After destructive Hurricane Dorian devastated the school on Sept. 6, 2019, Dolphin teams had to play all games away for two seasons.
The main school building was razed last year and rebuilding has just begun. The school gym was saved, but needed extensive repairs. The gym, which goes by “the Tank” (where dolphins swim), opened for women’s volleyball this fall on a new modular court.
There were no surprises against East Carteret, as the formidable Mariners from Beaufort handily beat the varsity girls and boys in the non-conference games Friday evening.
The Lady Mariners led from the very beginning. By the second quarter, the Dolphins got their offense going and came within a few points throughout the second period and a good part of the third. The Mariners then used a full court press, which created several Ocracoke turnovers. On two occasions, the Dolphins broke the press and got the ball to Maggie Evans who scored.
The Lady Dolphins lost the first game, 65-42. Senior Savannah Hodson was the high scorer for Ocracoke, followed by Maren Donlon and Maggie Evans. Complete final stats were not available.
The Lady Mariners fielded a balanced team. Kenliana Dixon was high scorer with 18 points, followed by Sydney Roberson with 17 and Tanzania Locklear with 15.
The Ocracoke boys also got off to a slow start, down 25-2 by the end of the first quarter. The Mariners brought excellent shooting (including eight 3-pointers) and a stifling defense to the game, cruising to a 72-31 win.
Landon Fuller led the Dolphins with 10 points (including two 3-pointers), followed by Davis Grant with 6, Dirk Ely with 5, Rosalio Villanueva with one three-pointer and Gavin Elicker with 2.
Shamel Baker was high scorer for the Mariners.
All Dolphin basketball teams (including the boys JV and middle school teams) have had limited playing time for two years. All are stacked with young players and will have to rebuild.
Most of the boys’ varsity players are freshmen and sophomores. Brandt O’Neal and Rosalio Villanueva are the only seniors for the boys.
Savannah Hodson is the only senior for the Lady Dolphins.
Perhaps the most heartwarming part of the evening came after the game. After clearing the new playing surface, Ocracoke Boosters set up tables, chairs and a buffet so that players, parents and coaches from both teams could share a meal.
Before the big spread, Ocracoke School Principal Leslie Cole and Athletic Director Mary McKnight lauded the East Carteret High School family for their kindness in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
Cole said East Carteret reached out to Ocracoke School right after the storm, asking how they could help. A week later, Carteret parents hosted 90 Ocracoke students, so our kids could escape the effects of Dorian’s devastation, if only for a long weekend.
“This school helped us out greatly after Hurricane Dorian and was incredibly generous to our students,” Cole wrote on the Ocracoke School Campus Facebook page. She also thanked the Ocracoke Oyster Company and Pony Island Restaurant for providing much of the food for the feast.
“What a great night at our home season opener against East Carteret,” Cole said. “We were happy to host our friends in the first home game since Hurricane Dorian. It was wonderful to see so many come out and support us.”
As often happens here, several island cooks brought dessert items for the dinner. The Pony Island Motel provided lodging for our Down Sound neighbors until they returned home the next morning on the Cedar Island ferry.
Richard Taylor contributed to this story