Sharks come up short in third straight final four


Ponte Vedra High’s boys basketball season came to an end at the hands of a very talented Pembroke Pines Charter team, 61-34, at the Class 6A state semifinals in Lakeland on March 7. 

The Sharks clearly were not at their best against the Jaguars, but much of the credit must go to their opponents. 

On the Sharks’ very first possession, a steal by Pembroke Pines and a made layup was the first sign it was going to perhaps be a long night for the Sharks. 

By the time the first quarter had ended the Sharks had tallied only five points to their opponent’s 14. 

Making only four shots in their 21 attempts in the first half resulted in the Sharks trailing 25-12 at halftime. It was the Sharks’ lowest first half scoring total of the season.

Pembroke Pines Charter arguably might have been the best opponent the Sharks have faced since the Bolles School squad in the 2016 state championship. 

The Jaguars dominated on the backboards with several of their points coming on put-back layups from their own missed shots.

One oddity in the game was that the Sharks never attempted a single free throw in the contest. 

Although it was not the ending they sought, the 2023-24 season was an overwhelming success, which featured three sophomores in their rotation.

The youngsters blended in with the few returning veterans as the season progressed and they improved immeasurably from the start of the season.

At one point in the campaign, the Sharks had a record of 9-5 but kept getting better as the season wore on. Only a buzzer-beater loss to Providence kept coach Ben Wilson’s squad from winning 13 straight before their loss in the final four.

The Sharks can eagerly look ahead to next year as the cupboard is not bare of talent. Four players who figured prominently this season will return but they will surely miss the presence of a trio of departing seniors. 

Sam Ritchie capped his career as the seventh leading scorer in the program’s history with 837 career points, while six-foot-six Tyler Cowans was a consistent force for all season, especially on the boards as his season total of 191 rebounds was fourth best in school history. 

Senior Brendan Hynes was the silent warrior who did much of the work that does not often show up in the stat lines. His work in the regional final against Wiregrass Ranch was a big reason why the Sharks advanced to the final four for the third consecutive year.

The four returnees for next season who played a pivotal role in this season’s success include junior David Sanchez-Barrera and sophomores Maddox Palmer, Trace Westercamp and Ryan Speace.

The main question heading into the offseason is whether the Sharks can make it four straight trips to the final four next season. Only time will tell, so stay tuned.

Ponte Vedra Sharks, boys basketball, final four