It’s highly unlikely that any local basketball team has faced a tougher schedule than this year’s Ponte Vedra boys basketball squad.
Heading into a pivotal rematch with undefeated Palatka at the Shark Tank Friday, Jan. 26, 11 of the 13 Shark opponents have combined for an overall record of 218 wins against 51 defeats. Veteran head coach Bud Beech’s team is hopeful that this demanding schedule will pay big dividends when the FHSAA tournament begins next month.
The Sharks appear to be heading in the right direction if recent contests are an indicator. Ponte Vedra is the winner of three of its last five contests that improved the team’s record to 9-9, including an improbable road victory against a 15-3 Bolles squad on Jan. 18. However, the road doesn’t get any easier for the local cagers.
A huge crowd is expected at the Shark Tank tomorrow (Friday) as the Sharks have eyes on pulling off another shocker when they host Palatka, who is 18-0.
The Sharks nearly pulled off the upset against the Panthers in their first meeting in early December when their fourth quarter comeback fell just two points short in Palatka’s 63-61 win.
If the Sharks are to derail the streaking Panthers (a final four finalist from last season), PVHS will need another big night from its 6-foot-9-inch senior center Jack Johnson and his mates. Although limited to four points in the Sharks victory over Bolles, Johnson was a force with his rebounding and defensive presence. Johnson exceeded his own former school record with 11 blocked shots, including a block of a Bolles layup with just two seconds left on the clock that sealed the 48-47 victory.
After exhibiting a little rust after playing on this year’s Ponte Vedra football team, Reese Russi has been a huge factor in last few Ponte Vedra outings. The junior guard has tallied 29 points in two of his last contests, while also doing a fine job of assisting Johnson in the rebounding department.
After sitting out eight games while rehabbing from a recent knee injury, senior guard Will Mons has given the Sharks a big lift in the backcourt. Junior forward Logan Conway, second in team scoring to Johnson, has been a consistently solid performer, while Johnny Corlazzoli, Andrew Mathis, Nick Pirris and Kyle Barker have provided much needed depth.
Tip off for Friday’s district contest with Palatka will be at approximately 7:30 p.m., or 15 minutes after the junior varsity contest that begins at 6 p.m.