Nease edges Ponte Vedra in OT to win series

Rivals end regular season in other close showdown; head to district playoffs

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In yet another classic, the Ponte Vedra-Nease basketball game played Friday, Feb. 5, in the regular-season finale of this bizarre boys’ basketball season, the Panthers would go into overtime to earn their second win over the Sharks in three matchups with a 51-47 victory.

Each of the Panthers’ victories over their arch-rivals have come in similar fashion. Twice the Panthers saw double digit leads in each contest evaporate due to some intensive defensive pressure applied by the Sharks. Holding a 14-point lead late in the third quarter, the Sharks put up a furious rally, taking a brief 42-41 lead following a Nate Bunkosky steal and a layup with 2:40 left in regulation.

The two teams combined to only score three points the rest of the way to send the game into overtime knotted up at 43-43.  The Sharks had a golden opportunity to win in regulation, but a 3-pointer spun around and out, and then a put-back rebound also failed to find the mark to send the two teams into the extra session.

The Panthers tallied first in overtime with 2:15 showing on the clock on a nifty driving layup by Matt Guzzie. The Sharks’ Bunkosky, who led Sharks scorers with 17 points, tied the game at 45 by making 2-of -3 free throws. The Panthers’ Logan Ryan, the leading scorer on the evening with 18 points, tallied on a driving layup as Nease regained the lead at 47-45. Fouled on the play, Ryan would miss his free throw, but the Panthers’ Gabe Bonilla grabbed the rebound and was then fouled by the Sharks’ leading scorer on the season, Luke Pirris, who fouled out of the game. Bonilla, who had entered the game for the first-time only moments earlier, made one of his two free throws in what would prove to be the game winner.

Rory Mayer, who finished in double figures for the Sharks with 10 points, cut the lead to one on nifty pass from Jack Polian.  That would prove to be the last points earned by the Sharks despite a number of opportunities in the game’s final 40 seconds. However, the Sharks committed two turnovers, missed on all four of their free-throw attempts and failed to covert on a pair of 3-pointers as Nease held on to claim a well-earned 51-47 victory.

The win capped off a great run to the end of the regular season as it was the ninth victory in 10 contests for head coach Josh Bailens and the Panthers.

The regular season didn’t end all that well for the Sharks. After posting wins in 19 of their first 21 games, they dropped their last two games to finish the regular season at a still impressive 19-4 record.

Both teams are seeded No. 1 in the district playoffs that take place this week and drew opening round byes.

The host Sharks beat Deltona 74-49 in the 4-5A district semifinals on Tuesday night to advance to the district championship. The advanced to play host St. Augustine at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12.

Nease played Oakleaf in the 1-7A district semifinals on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at Bartram Trail. (Note The game was not over by press time).

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