Cranking up the pressure

Relentless defense fuels Sharks blowout victory over Crusaders


The wave of momentum the Ponte Vedra Sharks have been on of late continued with an emphatic 61-31 win over Bishop Kenny High School in the Shark Tank Jan. 7.

The 30-point victory was rarely in doubt as the Sharks opened the game with a 13-2 run and led the Crusaders 40-15 at halftime.

“This was a big game coming in and everybody knew it,” Senior J.T. Kelly said. “Everybody stepped up.”

Everything was clicking for the Sharks on the night, especially on the defensive side, where their relentless full-court pressure frustrated the Crusaders and resulted in turnovers and easy points in transition.

“This past week we really worked in practice on getting our trapping angles right, and tonight we really saw that come to fruition,” Kelly said.

The Crusaders struggled at times just to get the ball past the half-court line against the swarming team defense of the Sharks.

Senior Ross Candelino had a huge scoring night for the Sharks with 24 points against his former team, which he played for prior to transferring to Ponte Vedra this season.

Ben Ritchie added nine points and Luke Pirris tallied eight.

Although Candelino was the only player in double figures on the night, the Sharks have four players averaging 10-plus points on the season.

“It’s my first time playing on a team where everyone in the starting five pretty much averages 10 points a game or more,” Candelino said. “It’s just a bunch of unselfish guys wanting to win, and that’s awesome.”

Not only was Candelino a threat to score, but he also grabbed his share of rebounds and drew a couple of charges on defense.

“We look to build our offense off of defense,” Candelino said. “That’s the biggest building block we have on our team.”

There was no doubt that the game carried a little more emotion for Candelino playing against his former school.

“I know all the guys coming from over there, and it was just a crazy atmosphere,” Candelino said. “They’re a great team, and we were able to get them on the right night.”

The victory was just the lasted for the Sharks and the first since winning the Kelleher Law Holiday Hoopfest Tournament down in Naples. 

According to Candelino, the trip and the tournament has gone a long way in improving the team’s chemistry.

“I believe chemistry off the court definitely helps the play on the court,” Kelly said.

Junior Israel Nuhu put an exclamation point on the contest with a two-handed dunk with about two minutes remaining that brought the crowd to its feet one last time.


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