Pirris returns sparks, Sharks in win over Matanzas


Five games into the 2016-17 basketball season, Ponte Vedra’s boys varsity basketball team was still wondering how successful this season could be when they could send their full complement of players onto the court.

That question may very well have been answered last Friday night with the return of five members from the Sharks’ state finalist football team, three of whom were joining the varsity roster. After being surprised on Tuesday night with a 55-52 loss to district foe Menendez, the Sharks were a vastly improved team when they took the court three days later against a much improved Matanzas team.

Buoyed with the return of their top scorer from the 2015-16 season, J.D. Pirris, the Sharks bounced back with a hard-earned 70-64 win over the visiting Pirates. Pirris tallied 23 points in his return to the lineup, 18 of those markers coming in the deciding second half.

Although Pirris was eligible to take the court as early as Tuesday night’s contest with Menendez, coach Bud Beech was hesitant to use his all-area performer just three days after Pirris completed his 14th bruising game as a valuable contributor to the Sharks’ football team. 

The Sharks are hopeful that with Pirris back in the starting lineup the results will be reversed when Ponte Vedra visits Menendez next month for a return engagement with the Falcons.  

A frigid shooting third quarter doomed the Sharks in their loss to Menendez. The Falcons outscored the ice cold Sharks 20-6 in the period to take a commanding 13-point lead into the final quarter. The Sharks rallied to pull within three points as the final buzzer sounded, but were unable to overtake the fired-up visitors.

The Sharks can certainly lay much of the blame on the surprising defeat to their poor shooting from two-point range, with many of their dismal 11 for 37 shooting coming from very close range.

The lone bright spot for the Sharks was the continued fine play of Eston Hensley. The 6’3” senior scored a game-high 16 points and pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds in the losing cause.

Friday night was a much happier ending for the locals against a talented Matanzas five. Pirris was understandably rusty with his shooting form in the first half after but one practice with his current teammates, but the JD of old came out smoking hot in the second half.

Effectively slashing to the basket, Pirris either made his driving layups, or drew fouls in the process, with his forceful drives. In addition to his four second-half field goals, Pirris knocked down 11 of his 12 free throws in the stretch run.

Matanzas crept within three points of the Sharks midway through the final quarter before the Sharks went on a pivotal 6-0 run on baskets from Chris Tomacewski, Reese Russi, and Jack Johnson for their biggest lead of the game at 66-57. Forced to foul in the game’s closing moments, the Sharks closed out the victory with Pirris making clutch fourth-quarter free throws.

Following this past Monday night’s road game at St. Augustine, coach Beech will now have a number of practices with a full roster before returning back to St. Augustine on Dec. 28 for three consecutive games in the St. Augustine Holiday Classic.