Sharks beat St. Augustine to win district title

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Ponte Vedra captured its first district championship in five years by defeating St. Augustine 61-52 last Friday night on the Sharks’ home court. The win advances the Sharks into the FHSAA Class 5A regional playoffs where they host Terry Parker at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18.

The victory over the Yellow Jackets was the second win during the week following an earlier 74-51 win over Deltona in a district semifinal. The one-two scoring punch of junior Luke Pirris and senior guard Alex Madson paved the way for the Sharks as the pair combined for 91 points for their week’s work.

Pirris scored a career-high 35 points in the Deltona contest and followed up with 16 in Friday’s final. After tallying 17 points in Tuesday’s win over Deltona, Madson poured in 23 tallies against St. Augustine.

“Madson’s 23-point performance where he was 4 for 5 from the arc during this championship game is one for the ages,” Sharks coach Kevin Whirity said.

At one point midway through the third quarter in Friday’s contest, the Sharks surged to a 20-point lead at 42-21, and it appeared they were headed to another easy victory.

However, the visiting Jackets went on a 10-0 run to cut the deficit in half drawing some concern from Whirity. 

“We learned a lot Friday (both good and bad), and we’ll be grinding all week long up to Thursday’s tough test against Terry Parker,” he said.

A three-point play from Pirris stopped the run and both teams pretty much played even until the final buzzer. The closest St. Augustine came to the Sharks was seven points at 53-46 with less than a minute remaining. However, led by baskets and free throws from Pirris and Madson, the Sharks held their lead.

So dominant were the Sharks in Tuesday’s opening round rout of Deltona that Pirris scored all 35 of his points in just three quarters of action as Whirity emptied his bench for much of the final quarter. 

Pirris now becomes one of but three players in PVHS history to score 30 or more points in a single contest. Former UNF star Beau Beech holds the record with 45 markers in his senior season back in 2012, while Jackson Johnson poured in 31 against Fletcher, also in 2012. 

“Pound for Pound, watch out,” Whirity said. “No wonder the D-1 football offers are flowing in. Pirris has the ability to score in such a variety of ways, creating many matchup challenges. And while Luke is an exceptional athlete, his desire to win is second to none.”

Ironically, it was the 2011-12 district championship the Ponte Vedra team, featuring future D-1 players Beech and Johnson, that would have its season come to an end in an overtime loss on the road to Terry Parker.  That contest remains as the only game played between the two schools prior to this Thursday night’s game. 

Terry Parker will come into the district championship game with a 15-7 record following its loss in the district finals to Lee. The Braves are led by a pair of seniors — 6-foot-2 Lakese Natana and 6-foot-4 Chris Victor. Natana brings a lofty 18 points a game average into the the district final, while Victor tallies about 12 points per outing. Victor will pose a problem for the Sharks on the boards as he pulls down about 12 missed shots a game.

If the Sharks come out on top, they would host the winner of Thursday night’s Lee/St. Augustine matchup in the regional semifinals Feb. 23.

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