By Peter Vankevich
The varsity boys Ocracoke Dolphins and the Jones Senior Trojans had never met, but those looking at the numbers on MaxPreps, an online service that tracks high school basketball throughout the country, believed the two teams were evenly matched.
They were, but the Dolphins prevailed 74-70 in a tough fought victory Tuesday night at home in “the Tank.”
This game was quite a turn around from their loss last week to the Bear Grass Charter Bears, 37-36, for the Atlantic 5 Conference championship at First Flight High School in Kill Devil Hills. In that game, they were shut out in the first quarter.
The Dolphins will enter the second round of the 1-A state tournament at another home game at 6 p.m. Thursday against West Columbus Vikings from Cerro Gordo, Columbus County.
The Vikings, 11-11 overall, beat Hobbton Wildcats, 58-48 in their first round. The game will be broadcast on WOVV, 90.1 FM, wovv.org or by using the Tune-I App.
“Yeah, I’m so proud of those kids,” said Coach Frank Moore after the game. “I know I’m not the easiest person to play for. They played their hearts out and that’s all you can ask. The other team was athletic, and we couldn’t run with them, but tonight we were the better team.”
Entering the game, the Trojans were 12-11 overall and 5-5 in their conference. Two of their nonconference victories were against Bear Grass Charter, which is the Atlantic 5 Conference team the Dolphins beat twice during the regular season, only to lose in the championship game.
The Dolphins entered Tuesday’s game with an overall record of 14-9, a first-place conference finish and, importantly, a 9-1 home record.
Their high-scoring offence was led by center Rahnier Lyons with 27 points followed by Finn Kattenberg with 19 and Landon Fuller with 18. Maja Brown had the hot hand for the Trojans with 31 points. Gabe Butler scored 11 points in the third quarter that gave the Trojans the lead for a while. He finished with 13 points.
The Dolphins got off to a fast start leading 20-14 in the first quarter and 39-34 at halftime. For most of the game, the Dolphins held the lead, but the Trojans never gave up and captured a slim lead three times. They had trouble containing Lyons, who consistently made low post bank shots. Clutch shooting by Fuller, Kattenberg and Lyons in the fourth quarter made the difference.
Tommy Hutcherson called the game with his trademark exuberance on WOVV, assisted by Raul Ibarra.
“Everyone played well, not just one or two,” he said. “I mean it was the continuity of the whole team. They [Trojans] had a great defense and we managed to beat their press. In the end they had to foul and the clutch free throw shots by Landon sealed the game.”