Panthers reach Fortegra Tournament final

Sharks fall for first time this season

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The Nease boys basketball team had a memorable showing in the Fortegra Tournament by making it all the way to the championship game.

Although the Panthers (5-3) lost in final, 59-31 to Fleming Island Dec. 11, they still can out of the tournament riding a wave of momentum after a pair of victories over Dublin (Georgia) and Fletcher.

According to Nease head coach Josh Bailen, he was happy with how the Panthers were able to establish their style of play in the two wins and it all started with disruptive play on the defensive end.

“Our guys are finding their roles and doing what it takes to carry them out,” Bailen said.

On the offensive end, senior point guard Matthew Guzie had a huge game for the Panthers in the semfinals against Fletcher, as he scored two clutch baskets in the waning moments to send his team give his team a shot at the title.

Guzie finished the contest with a team-high 17 points, including hitting a beautiful floater in the lane with about a minute to play and then coming down with an offensive rebound between two Fletcher players under the basket and going up and under for a layup to give Nease a one-point lead with 20 seconds remaining.

"He has more heart than anybody out there,” Bailen said. “Just a hard worker and a great kid.”

The victory was even sweeter, because the Senators had beaten the Panthers by 38 points to open the season Nov. 23.

Bailen is happy with the heart that his team showed to bounce back and change the script in the second matchup between the squads.

“It was a great life lesson of how to handle adversity,” Bailen said.

Also finishing in double figures for the Panthers against the Senators was Jake Larson with 12 and Logan Ryan with 11.

Ryan scored 21 points, including five three-pointers in the first-round win over Dublin.

Ryan and Guzie were both named as members on the all-tournament team.

Ponte Vedra also played during the three-day tournament and were able to win one of the two games they played.

The two losses suffered were the first for the Sharks (5-2) this season.

The Sharks opened the competition with a tough matchup against a very athletic Riverside squad and lost in a close one, 57-56 in overtime.

Nate Bunkosky led the Sharks with 17 points, while J.T. Kelly tallied 15, including a trio from beyond the arc, and Luke Pirris had 11.

However, after the hard-fought game against Riverside the Sharks came out flat, especially on the offensive end and lost 51-38 to Episcopal.

The Sharks went from having three players in double figures against Riverside to none against Episcopal.

“We needed to move the ball around a lot more (on offense),” Ponte Vedra head coach Kevin Whirity said. “You can’t take away everything on defense, but with 21 points at the half I thought we were on track.”

The Sharks responded with a commanding 55-30 win over Jacksonville Impact Christian Academy to put a halt to the two-game slide.    

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