There was a point, somewhere in the fourth quarter, around the time North Carolina signee Jalek Felton threw down his fourth or fifth dunk — the one he cocked back behind his head and slammed over two defenders — that Oceanside coach Jermel President accepted his team was out of its league.
Gray sailed past Oceanside, 87-54, Tuesday night in the inaugural Landshark Classic downtown at the College of Charleston’s TD Arena.
The two sister charter schools plan to make the game an annual event; one that becomes more competitive in the future. For now though, Gray — nationally ranked in just its third year — is the blueprint for what first-year Oceanside hopes to become.
“(Gray) is the mark for where we want to go as a program,” President said. “We might need a couple more years to build up to that point, but right there you can see what’s possible with the skill level and the kids going to North Carolina and other schools.
“Right now, they might have a little bit more talent than us, but our kids never backed down. They showed a lot of heart tonight.”
Felton, the top ranked player in the state, poured in 18 points in the first half while his five-star teammate, Juwan Gary, sat most of the second quarter in foul trouble. Oceanside countered Felton’s attack by spreading the floor and moving the ball. Six different Landsharks logged at least one field goal though the first 16 minutes to keep Oceanside within 11 points, 38-27, at halftime.
“Our kids fought hard out there,” President said. “(Gray) is the best team we’ll see all season, and this game is a good measure of where we’re at and where we need to be. Our team really played tough tonight. There’s just a certain point where that high talent level trumps.”
Oceanside trimmed the deficit to seven off a pair of layups from senior guard Greg Archie in the opening 30 seconds of the third quarter. Gray countered immediately out of a timeout with an 11-point run, nine from Gary, that broke open the War Eagles’ largest lead of the game. Gary scored 13 of his 21 points in the third quarter. Felton finished with a game-high 32.
“Our senior leader, Jalek Felton, told them in the huddle, ‘We’ve got to handle our business, take care of our responsibilities.’ And everybody did that,” Gray coach Dion Bethea said. “ (Oceanside) played hard and they competed. That’s all you can really ask. Jermel is a great coach. He knows the area well. They’re only going to get better. I’d hate to see them next year and the year after that. They’re going to be real tough.”
Archie and his younger brother, Isaiah, both finished with 13 points while Deontre Floyd and Noah Gregg both added nine.
Suffering the first loss of his head coaching career might’ve been tough to swallow, but President is looking at the bigger picture when scheduling nationally ranked opponents in college arenas.
“Tonight was a chance to give them that whole collegiate experience. Let them see what it’s like. A lot of these guys have never even been in a college locker room before,” he said. “It was a good atmosphere. It was a good experience for everybody. And we’re only going to get better from this.”
Oceanside (4-1) travels to Hanahan on Thursday and North Myrtle Beach on Saturday.