Ponte Vedra kept its early season winning streak alive following a 48-41 victory over arch-rival Nease on Friday, Dec. 11. After defeating Fleming Island (59-46) and St. Augustine St. Joseph (29-21) earlier in the week, the win over Nease marked the second week in a row in which the Sharks won all three of their scheduled games.
With a suffocating defense, and a team loaded with depth, the Sharks head to Creekside High on Thursday, Dec. 17, in an attempt to keep their streak intact. Although Junior Luke Pirris is the only Shark to average in double figures (15.4 ppg.), second-year head coach Kevin Whirity has seen seven of his players score in double figures at one time or another during the early part of the season.
While Pirris once again led Shark scorers with 16 points against Nease, the Sharks got a real spark from a pair of seniors who stepped up to rescue their mates. Jack Polian netted a career-high 14 points, while Rory Mayer added a season-high 10 tallies.
When asked if he was surprised at the play he got from Polian and Mayer, Whirity replied, “surprised, no … Impressed, Yes. Mayer is simply a ‘gamer’ who scored from all depths on the court, distributed, rebounded (nine total), and locked down some great offensive weapons. Polian was our “in the Arena” award recipient for his play and he now has a timeless memory by hitting four three pointers against his archrival.”
Although many of the Shark shooters had an off night, certainly their defense didn’t take the day off. Trailing 30-27 heading into the final quarter, the Sharks held the Panthers to two field goals over the final eight minutes, while piling up 21 points to pull away from their rival.
“Defense is the backbone of our program and our guys take tremendous pride in working to perfect their craft,” Whirity said following the contest.
Both teams were tentative in the game’s first four minutes of play with the only a single point displayed on the Nease scoreboard — a free throw from the Sharks’ Luke Pirris. Shortly thereafter, the Panthers’ Logan Ryan swished a pair of long 3-pointers, and his teammate Kevin Fifield added another as Nease enjoyed its biggest lead of the night at 9-1.
The Sharks battled all the way back to tie the score at 15 midway through the second quarter when Polian netted the second of his four 3-point shots. It was Polian again who delivered the biggest shots of the game by drilling a pair of triples in the final quarter to make a tied game at 34, now a six-point 40-34 Sharks advantage, a lead they would not surrender.
“The Panthers are extremely well-coached, disciplined and compel their opponents to step up to the challenge. I couldn’t be more proud of how our guys responded,” Whirity said.
Earlier last week, Nease defeated Oakleaf 50-47 with junior Matt Guzie leading a balanced offensive attack with 10 points. After a road game this past Tuesday at Palm Coast, coach Josh Bailen’s team will travel to St. Augustine Friday, Dec. 18, to play the Yellowjackets.