After a heartbreaking overtime loss in their season opener to St. Augustine, and an expected defeat on the road to one of the nation’s top teams, the Ponte Vedra boys varsity basketball team has bounced back by defeating two talented foes to even their season record at 2-2.
Both victories were hard earned with the first win coming against an undefeated Creekside team by the score of 67-63. Their next victory was even more tightly contested as the Sharks needed a last second three pointer to edge a very athletic Mandarin five 89-86.
The Sharks will now turn their attention this week to Clay, Fletcher and archrival Nease as hopes are high that the Sharks could post a sweep of this week’s action.
After a district road trip to Clay Co. this past Tues., and a short jaunt the following day up A1A to battle neighboring Fletcher, Ponte Vedra will return home after five straight road games to face arch rival Nease High tomorrow night (Fri., Dec. 4) at the Shark tank.
In Ponte Vedra’s exciting win over Creekside, a large and enthusiastic crowd, mostly from a loyal student body turnout from host Creekside, shouted in glee as their beloved Knights came out on fire and raced to an early 22-13 first quarter lead before the Sharks began to settle down.
The Sharks tightened up their defense in the second quarter and cooled off the hot shooting Knights by outscoring Creekside 12-8, cutting the Knights lead down to a more manageable 5 point advantage heading into the halftime break.
The lone senior that saw action during the contest, Matthew Johnson, and junior JD Pirris then combined to score 27 second half points as Ponte Vedra outscored Creekside 42-33 to earn a well-deserved 67-63 victory. Johnson would finish with 19 points on the evening with Pirris adding 18.
Veteran head coach Bud Beech received some outstanding clutch play from juniors Dean McCarthy and Mike Nicandri during the fiercely fought contest.
McCarthy chipped in with nine points off the bench while Mike Nicandri came up with some huge plays in the final four minutes of play to help the Sharks post their first victory of the young season.
With Creekside applying some tenacious pressure defense, Nicandri’s superior ball handling skills forced the Knights to foul, and Mike made them pay as he was a perfect 6 for 6 from the line in crunch time. Nicandri, who finished with a career high 12 points, helped improve the team’s free throw percentage from their previous two games to a more respectable mark of 16 out of 22 from the stripe.
Ponte Vedra played but one game during Thanksgiving Week but it was one that rewrote the record book.
In a race horse game at Mandarin on Tues., Nov. 24, the Sharks poured in a school record 89 points in their victory over Mandarin, shattering the former mark of 79 points set in the 2011-12 season in a win over Bartram Trail.
The Sharks needed every one of those points as Mandarin netted 86 in a tightly contested game that saw neither team take a lead at anytime wider than a slim five point margin.
The Sharks trailed the host Mustangs by two points, 47-45 following a high scoring first half of action. The third quarter turned into a scoring duel between the Sharks’ Matthew Johnson and Mandarin’s Jeff Coulages as the pair scored a combined 24 points, Coulages 13 and Johnson 11 as the Mandarin lead remained at 2 at 67-65 heading into the final hectic quarter of play.
Neither time was able to pull away from one another in the final stanza.
Shark guard Mike Nicandri drilled a 3 pointer from the corner to give PVHS a slim 82-81 lead with 3:10 left to play. Mandarin continued their uncanny out court shooting and moved out to a three point lead at 85-82 before JD Pirris hit a driving layup to pull the Sharks within one at 85-84.
Following a missed Mandarin free throw, Ponte Vedra’s 6’7” sophomore center Jack Johnson rebounded a missed Shark field goal attempt and scored to give his team a 86-85 lead with but 0:27 remaining in regulation.
The Mustangs Coulages, made one out of two free throws with 20 seconds remaining in the contest to knot the score at 86-86.
It looked like this game was headed for overtime when JD Pirris’s shot missed the mark.
However, his attempt was tipped back to Matt Johnson who sank a long 25 foot jumper that swished through the nets as time expired to give the Sharks a hard-earned 89-86 victory.
Interestingly enough, it was Matt Johnson’s older brother, Jackson, who hit a long three point shot at the end of regulation three years ago against Mandarin that sent that contest into overtime, a game the Sharks won in the ensuing OT period.
Matt Johnson led the Sharks in scoring with 25 points but a number of other Sharks played very well in the victory.
JD Pirris netted 22 points while Nicandri and Jack Johnson were also in double figures with 10 and 11 points respectively. Dean McCarthy came off the bench to give veteran head coach Bud Beech a big boost with 8 points.
Easton Hensley played a major role in the victory by leading the Shark rebounders with 9, added three assists, a steal and a block while committing no turnovers in a solid effort.
Jack Johnson also inserted his name into the Ponte Vedra record book by blocking 6 Mandarin shot attempts, equaling the former mark he now shares with current University of North Florida All Star Beau Beech.