Ocracoke defends Brantley girls title

Published 9:11 am Tuesday, December 10, 2013

AHOSKIE – For the second straight year the Ocracoke varsity girls’ basketball team won the Lt. Nick Brantley Scholarship Tournament, this year downing RidgecroftSchool in the final on the Rams’ home Revelle Gymnasium floor, 54-41.

For the second straight year, Ocracoke’s Lucy O’Neal, now a junior, was named as Most Valuable Player as she tallied a double-double of 18 points and 20 rebounds, eleven of those boards coming off the defensive glass in the second half. Sydney Austin had 15 points as the only other Dolphin players in double-figures.

Hennie Larabee led all scorers with 23 points to pace Ridgecroft.

“Ten (Larabee) is a really strong player and very composed,” said Dolphin coach Adam Burleson. “At the end, though, especially the final four minutes of the fourth quarter, Lucy got much more aggressive on the boards and finished with twenty, and we couldn’t be happier with that.”

O’Neal did all this fighting off foul trouble in the fourth quarter after she picked up her fourth. But her control of the defensive glass, especially, was a big key to the Dolphin win.

Ocracoke scored the first 7 points of the game and pushed it up to 11-3 before Ridgecroft, behind an eight point output from Larabee, stormed back and tied it at 11-all with 55 seconds left in the first quarter. Larabee then drained a long jump shot, just inside the three-point circle, to give the Lady Rams a two-point lead after the first eight minutes of play, 13-11.

Not to be outdone for the Rams was the inside play and offense of center Tanja Sauermann. After Ocracoke tied the game early in the second quarter, Sauermann and Larabee scored underneath to push Ridgecroft back in front by five, 18-13. Aileen Tellez helped bring Ocracoke back and at the minute-41 mark the game was tied again, this time at 21-21. The Lady ‘Fins fired off two more field goals for a 26-21 lead before Larabee nailed a three-point shot just before the horn and Ridgecroft’s halftime deficit was only 26-24.

The third quarter was a low-scoring affair: nine points for Ridgecroft to just ten for Ocracoke. The Dolphins stayed in front early in the second half, but never by more than three points at any one time in the frame. Larabee dropped a pair of foul shots with under a minute remaining in the quarter that got Ridgecroft within one, 34-33; but the Rams didn’t get a stop on the other end, and Katie O’Neal scored on a breakaway that made it 36-33 after three.

Larabee was fouled on a made bucket on Ridgecroft’s opening score of the fourth quarter and her foul shot tied the game for a fourth time, 36-all.  Ridgecroft then took their first lead of the half, 38-36, on a Katie Blowe put-back. Ocracoke would tie it for the final time at 40-40 on a Katie O’Neal lay-up. Then at the 5:50 mark, Lucy O’Neal got an offensive rebound and a put back for a 42-40 lead and the ‘Fins never trailed again.

Larabee got a free throw to make it a one-point game, 42-41, for the last time. Ocracoke scored the final dozen points of the game from the 4:37 mark, with Austin getting four of those on follow-shots.

“I feel we did well overall,” said Ridgecroft coach Susan Oliver. “We worked hard underneath, we double-teamed her (O’Neal) and played back-side help, but we just couldn’t slack off on the outside because of their shooters.

“We just ran out of gas there at the end,” she added. “But we didn’t give up.”

NOTES:  Making the 2013 All-Tournament team were Austin and Katie O’Neal of Ocracoke; Sauermann, Larabee, and Blowe for Ridgecroft with Lucy O’Neal named as Most-Valuable-Player.