Late comeback falls just short for Sharks in district championship


Trailing by as many as 13 points in the second half, the Ponte Vedra Sharks boys basketball team put on a furious rally late but fell just one point short in their 48-47 district championship loss to Oakleaf Feb. 10.

“Our team showed a lot of grit in the second half,” said assistant coach Antwoin Conerly following the exciting contest.

 Nobody showed more grit than four-year Ponte Vedra starter Nathan Bunkosky, who seemingly single-handily carried the Sharks to the near victory over a red hot Oakleaf team who is now an amazing 23-1 on the season.  

Playing with a heart as big as the center jump circle, the Ponte Vedra point guard left everything he had out on the court in the game’s final exciting minutes. 

In the final quarter alone, Bunkosky had six points, three rebounds, three steals and an assist that nearly propelled the Sharks to victory.

However, it was an assist that he didn’t get credit for that might have been the turning point in the ball game.  

With the Sharks trailing by a point with just over a minute left in the game, Bunkosky stole the ball and delivered a perfect pass to a teammate, but unfortunately the pass was fumbled and Oakleaf would take over possession.

Still, the Sharks and Bunkosky were not done as he scored on one of his patented driving layups to cut the deficit to one.  

The Sharks fouled with nine seconds remaining and Bunkosky pulled down the rebound and headed down court and passed the ball to Israel Nuhu near midcourt.

Nuhu and an opposing Knights’ player crashed into one another but there was no call as the ball went out of bounds with two seconds left on the clock, and the Sharks had their inbound pass deflected and the Knights survived.

The Sharks outscored the visiting Knights in every quarter but one, the second quarter, but that one quarter surely contributed to the defeat.  

Trailing 14-8 after the first quarter, the Knights came out with their guns blazing and went on a 11-0 run, with nine of their points coming on three 3-pointers.

When the two-teams headed to their locker rooms at halftime the Knights had outscored the Sharks 20-6 in the second quarter to lead 29-20 at the break.

The Sharks played more than five minutes without top scorer Nuhu on the floor in the third quarter who had picked up his third foul.

Nuhu returned with less than two seconds left in the quarter and scored on a set out of bounds play on a perfect pass from Bunkosky to close the gap, 42-34.  

Needing a spark, head coach Ben Wilson inserted sophomore David Sanchez-Berrera into the lineup.  

Playing with a heavy heart after the recent passing of his father, Berrera came through with three free throws, a couple of offensive rebounds and some solid defense in the second half.

Bunkosky finished his heroics on the night with a game-high 18 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals. 

His five steals moved Bunkosky into a tie for first in career steals with former Sharks point guard Jackson Johnson, now the current head coach of Newman Prep in Boston.  

Although the Sharks did not become district champions, their season has not come to a close, as they will go on the road to face Wiregrass Ranch High School down in Wesley Chapel in the first round of the FHSAA Class 6A state tournament.

Ponte Vedra Sharks, district runner-up