Much improved Sharks near halfway mark of the season

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Normally, Ponte Vedra Sharks boys basketball fans wouldn’t be content with a 5-7 record near the midway point of a season. However, despite having eight of its top players from the previous season no longer available through graduation or injuries, this season has suddenly taken a turn for the better.

The Sharks began the 2019-20 campaign by losing four of their first five games, salvaging a lone victory against an outmanned St. Joseph Academy squad. To compound the problem, first-year head coach Kevin Whirity was missing a number of players from his earlier practices who were members of the playoff-bound football team.

Despite beginning the season with a young and inexperienced team, Whirity accepted the challenge with a positive attitude.

“I believe every season brings a fresh start and each team takes on a new identity ... indifferent to prior year results and a players level of experience,” he said. “Our team’s approach to this season is one of selflessness, sacrifice and brotherhood, a concept that is our PV Shark creed.”

After five games into the season, and following a blow-out lost to an outstanding Providence team, Whirity called up three players from an undefeated JV team in hopes of stopping the bleeding, a decision that has paid immediate dividends.

Although they lost their first game following Whirity’s bold move, the Sharks gave Paxon, one of the area’s top-rated teams, a scare in a 53-46 loss. The next day, the three newcomers — freshman Nathan Bunkosky and sophomores Luke Pirris and JT Kelly — tallied 40 of the team’s 50 points as the Sharks nipped neighboring Fletcher 50-48. 

Whirity was quick to deflect much of his credit to his Junior Varsity coach Antwoin Contrel.

“Antwoin continues to do a phenomenal job and deserves the credit in preparing our younger guys,” he said. “From go, his attention to detail and demand for excellence positioned these young men for success. That said, these young men injected fresh energy and a level competition that has transformed the program overnight.”

Following the call-ups of this trio of talented youngsters, the rejuvenated Sharks have posted a winning record of 4-3. But for a desperation buzzer-beater 3-pointer in a road loss to Bartram Trail, and a narrow loss to Admiral Farragut just hours after an emotional victory over rival Creekside, these very young Sharks could have posted a 6-1 mark.

The Sharks ended the 2019 portion of their current season on a winning note. Playing their sixth game in eight days the Sharks couldn’t possibly have much gas left in their tank. To make matters even worse, their game with Frankfort, Kentucky would turn into a 2-overtime marathon. However, thanks to a clutch steal and a pair of made-free throws from Will Irwin that sent the game into overtime, the Sharks prevailed in a 75-72 win.

The Sharks returned to action following the holiday break on Tuesday, Jan. 7, in a 51-40 loss to host Fleming Island, and will host Flagler Palm Coast at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13.

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