Ponte Vedra downs Nease in regular season finale

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Special to the Recorder

Ponte Vedra defeated Nease 56-38 last Friday, Feb. 8 in the second round of their annual rivalry before yet another near capacity crowd at the Shark Tank.

It was Senior Night for the Sharks and veteran head coach Bud Beech’s seniors delivered in a big way, scoring all but two of the Sharks’ point total. 

Ironically, the opposite held true for Nease. The Panthers’ underclassmen scored all but two of their 38 points scored, with junior Miguel Solis netting 14 points and freshman Logan Ryan adding 11.

With the victory over their archrivals, the Sharks atoned for an earlier 57-48 defeat to the Panthers on the Nease home court.

Reese Russi was the shining star for the victorious Sharks with 19 points, four assists, five rebounds and a pair of steals that resulted in 2-pointers, as the hosts won their second game in a row heading into this week’s playoffs.

Five senior Shark players were honored before the tipoff with Nease and all contributed to the victory. Johnny Corlazzoli, Luke Martin, Logan Conway and Ben Houser joined Russi in the starting lineup, and it appears that all five are now playing at the top of their game. Houser (15 points) and Martin (10 points) were again in double figures in the scoring department to complement Russi’s 19 tallies.

Corlazzoli brought toughness and leadership to the court while notching seven points, in addition to playing a steady game as the point guard, while Conway was a defensive stopper in the victory.

After a close first quarter that saw the Sharks take a narrow 17-15 lead after the first eight minutes of action, the Sharks pulled away to take a comfortable 35-24 lead at the halftime break.

Ponte Vedra then stretched the lead to 47-35 after three quarters before the Sharks nearly shut out the Panthers in the fourth period. There was less than a minute remaining in the final quarter before the young Panthers were able to put points on the board as the Sharks outscored Nease 9-3 over the final eight minutes of play.

Another near capacity crowd was on hand for the traditional rivalry contest, and when the final buzzer sounded, the enthusiastic PVHS student body on hand flooded the floor to congratulate their victorious classmates.

The win over Nease capped a very productive week for the Sharks. On Feb. 4, the Sharks took a St. Augustine team — enjoying its best season in a decade — into overtime before dropping a 77-74 decision to the host Yellow Jackets.

At the start of the second half against St. Augustine, Coach Beech, after weeks of juggling his lineup, started an all-senior lineup to begin the second half and that decision has quickly paid big dividends. After dropping eight of their last nine games, the Sharks bounced back the following night with a convincing 77-70 win over Fletcher. 

Conway gave the Sharks a huge boost in the Fletcher victory with a career high 18 points, 13 of his tallies coming in the game’s first eight minutes of play. Corlazzoli came a point shy of also notching a career high with his 12 points while sophomore Caden Fordham came off the bench to tally a season best eight points.  

The Sharks have received double digit scoring all season from seniors Ben Houser, Luke Martin and Russi, and with Conway, Corlazzoli and Fordham lifting up their game, the Sharks are hopeful of pulling off a surprise in the playoffs. 

The Sharks got off to a good start this week as they scored more than 70 points for the third time in their last four games while downing Menendez 76-59 Monday night to advance to the semifinals on Wednesday.

Senior guard Johnny Corlazzoli led Ponte Vedra with both with his shooting and his passing. Corlazzoli notched a season high 14 points, but it was his sharp passing of the basketball that was an eye-opener.

The 10 assists in a single game was second only to the 13 assists dished off by Jackson Johnson in 2013 against Bartlesville in Oklahoma.

If not for normally high scoring Reese Russi scoring but one more point, the entire starting five for the Sharks would have reached double figures.

Ben Houser netted 16 tallies, Luke Martin had 15, Logan Conway had 11 and Russi had nine to complement Corlazzoli.

Before the Recorder went to the printer, the Sharks played district top seed and final four qualifier from 2018 Palatka last night in the district semifinals at Clay High. If the Sharks should pull off the upset of the Panthers, they would then play the winner of Wednesday’s game between Clay High and Matanzas for the district championship. 

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