After placing third in a pair of holiday tournaments, Ponte Vedra will return home tomorrow night (Friday, Jan. 8) with a pivotal district contest against Palatka. The Sharks hope to atone for one of their 7 defeats, against nine victories, when they tip it off against the Panthers at 7:30 p.m.
Palatka stunned the Sharks in an earlier meeting by storming from behind to hand the Sharks their lone district loss on the season, as opposed to two district victories. The Sharks had a seemingly comfortable 16 points lead in the final period only to see the Panthers employ a tenacious full court press that rattled the Sharks.
Oddly enough, Palatka’s win over PVHS has proven to be their only win in district competition as the Panthers were upset in their other meetings by a combined 3 points against Clay and Menendez.
Although shorthanded during the two Holiday tournaments with 3 players absent, the Sharks posted wins in 4 of their 6 contests, with one of those losses coming on a last second buzzer beater at the hands of Fletcher.
The Sharks followed up their third place showing at the St. Augustine Holiday tournament as head coach Bud Beech’s squad again took consolation honors in the Blue Devil Classic at Clay County High School.
By defeating the host Blue Devils to cop third place honors, the Sharks once again defeated a host school in the process.
The Sharks had defeated St. Augustine on Dec. 23 to avenge a season opening overtime loss to the Yellow Jackets in mid-November. However, the Sharks had the tables turned a week later when Fletcher High, a team the Sharks had defeated earlier in December by 15 points, edged the Sharks by 58-55 to deprive PVHS from advancing to the finals.
Once again the Sharks could only point their finger for another of their close defeats to poor free throw shooting in their loss to neighboring Fletcher. After enjoying a lead that had expanded at one point in the second half to 15 points, the Sharks were only able to connect on a paltry 2 of 10 free throw attempts in the final two quarters.
The Sharks opened the Blue Devil Holiday tournament in style by posting a solid 57-40 victory over Deland High School. Outscoring Deland in every quarter, the Sharks put the game away with a 13-1 run in the third quarter as Matt Johnson, who finished with a game high 18 points, scored 9 of PVHS’ 13 points.
Clay Welch and JD Pirris also scored in double figures for the winners with 11 points each, while Pirris with 9 rebounds, and Eston Hensley with 8, led the Shark rebounders.
The second round loss to Fletcher was especially painful as Ponte Vedra led throughout the entire game, until Fletcher took its first lead of the contest at 55-54 with just 25 seconds remaining. The Sharks were doomed from their poorest showing of the season at the free throw line as they shot a woeful 5-15.
Ponte Vedra’s Hensley made one of two free throws with 0:11 seconds remaining to tie the game at 55-55. However, for the second time this season, the Sharks were defeated on a buzzer beater as the Senators’ Tyron Bond nailed a three pointer to hand the Sharks their 7th loss of the season.
The Sharks played without 3 of their regulars, who missed the contest for personal reasons, and the short bench took an additional hit when Chris Tomacewski went out with an injury early in the first half.
Veteran head coach Bud Beech continually looked for help from his depleted bench but received no second half scoring outside his starting five. Jack Shannon tallied 12 points, Pirris 11, Matt Johnson 10 and Hensley with 9 to account for the majority of Ponte Vedra’s scoring.
In the battle for third place at the Blue Devil Classic, the Sharks held off a late fourth quarter rally by tournament host Clay in defeating the Blue Devils for the second time this season, 55-51.
Once again, it appeared the Sharks were going to let a comfortable lead slip away as the Blue Devils, who trailed by as many as 9, pulled to within 2 points with 0:11 seconds remaining in the contest. Matt Johnson then hurled a full court pass that would have made PVHS star quarterback Nick Tronti proud, to Eston Hensley for an uncontested layup to clinch their 9th win on the season.
After missing 2 of 8 free throws in the final quarter to let a big lead slip away the preceding night against Fletcher, the Sharks hit 4 of their 5 free throws down the stretch to preserve the win.
Matt Johnson led a balanced attack with 14 points, while 3 other players were also in double figures: JD Pirris 13, Eston Hensley 11, and Jack Shannon with 10. Johnson, named to the Blue Devil Holiday Classic All-Tournament team, also added a team high 6 assists.
The victory moves the Sharks to an overall record of 9 wins against 7 losses as they move into the New Year. The Sharks will now enjoy a nice home stretch where they will play 7 of their remaining 9 regular season games at the Shark Tank, beginning tomorrow night against Palatka.