Round three of the Nease and Ponte Vedra girls basketball rivalry lived up to all the billing and turned out to be an instant classic that the Panthers won with a Sydney Gomes drive and layup with five seconds left.
Gomes’ shot was the epitome of clutch and gave the Panthers a 48-47 victory over the rival Sharks in the Class 6A regional quarterfinals Feb. 10.
Prior to the basket the Sharks led 47-46 with 16 seconds left and the opportunity to increase the lead at the free-throw line following a timeout.
“After that last timeout, coach said ‘I want the ball in Syd’s hands,’” Sydney Gomes said.
The Sharks missed the front end of a one-and-one and Gomes grabbed the rebound and quickly pushed up court and sliced her way to the basket to put the Panthers in front and ignite the Nease faithful in attendance.
“I got it and I knew that if we didn’t get that chance, we weren’t going to have another one,” Gomes said. “I wasn’t going to let my team down.”
The heart of both teams was on display throughout the game, and it was obvious that the seniors on both sides were doing everything they could to help will their team to victory and extend their career one more game.
“My mind was all over the place there late, but I just knew we had it in us,” Nease senior Allison Fifield said. “I didn’t care how much they came back, I kept saying ‘this is our game.’”
And come back the Sharks did, as the Panthers stormed out of the gate to a 10-0 lead, but the Sharks remained focused and did what they had to do to chip away at the deficit.
The Panthers saw their early lead cut to one early in the second quarter but mounted another run of their own and led 24-17 at halftime.
However, the Sharks continued to fight back, and it eventually paid off when they took their first lead of the game 45-44 thanks to an old-fashioned three-point play by senior Reeghan Mayer with 2:30 remaining in the contest.
The Panthers also got a taste of redemption with the win after having lost to the Sharks on their home court in the district semifinals just a week earlier.
“I think we might have been over-prepared,” Fifield chuckled. “We watched that film multiple times to see what we did wrong last Wednesday, and we were just not going to let it happen today.”
Kennedy Rosendahl had 24 points and Morgan Gavazzi posted 17 during the Sharks win over the Panthers in the district tournament, including nine three-pointers between them.
The Panthers’ defense was able to flip that script in one week later.
“The other night they were just hitting down shots, but tonight we locked those kids down,” Nease head coach Sherri Anthony said. “I don’t know if they got any threes.”
Next up for the Panthers is a trip to the Florida Panhandle to play Navarre High School at 6 p.m. Feb. 15. With the loss, the Sharks’ memorable season came to an end.
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