After losing virtually their entire roster due to graduations and transfers, one could virtually paint a bleak future for this season’s Ponte Vedra boys’ basketball team.
However, after an impressive third place finish at the recent St. Augustine Holiday Classic, this 2015-16 very young Shark team will take a winning record into the current season’s second half.
The Sharks won their opener on Dec. 21 against John I. Leonard High School, a huge 8A school with a student population over 3300, 69-66. The following night the Sharks once again had to face a powerful Bolles team, but had no answer for the gigantic Bolles starting five and fell 64-39.
Playing with some extra incentive against the host St. Augustine Yellowjackets, who stunned the Sharks in overtime in the season opener on November 17, the Sharks atoned for that earlier defeat by topping St. Augustine 51-47.
With a winning record of 7 wins against 6 defeats against some very tough competition, the Sharks quickly jumped back into action with their second Holiday tournament on Monday (Dec 28) when they played Deland High School in the first round of the Clay Co. Classic.
Following Monday’s contest with Deland, the Sharks resumed action Tuesday (Dec 29) and Wednesday (Dec 30) at Clay High School against teams determined by how they fared in earlier action.
Ponte Vedra captured third place honors, despite missing a couple of players from their normal rotation, but coach Bud Beech received some much needed help from some of his reserves who undoubtedly have earned additional playing time as the season moves forward.
As early as game one against John I. Leonard, all 16 of Ponte Vedra’s first quarter points were scored by players that were starting their first game of the season.
Jack Shannon, for the second straight game, continued his sizzling out court shooting from long range by canning three 3-pointers in the game’s first eight minutes with Chris Tomacewski and Spencer Turner supplying the rest of the Shark tallies.
However, it looked bleak for the Sharks when they trailed by as many as 10 points midway through the second quarter before the Sharks went on a 14-0 run to completely turn the game’s momentum their way as yet another reserve, Clay Welch, came off the bench to fire in a couple of long range 3 pointers as the Sharks rallied to take the lead 35-32 at halftime.
John I. Leonard would not wilt and went on a 14-0 run before the tide changed in favor of the Sharks.
It was at this point that junior Shark forward Easton Hensley put together an incredible stretch of basketball that saw him score the next 14 points for Ponte Vedra, as the Sharks rallied to lead by a slim 52-51 margin heading into the game’s final eight minutes.
After building a seven point lead with 2 minutes remaining in the game, the Sharks made it more than interesting in the game’s closing moments as they missed five free throws to prevent the locals from pulling away.
After the Shark’s missed two free throws with 0:08 remaining, Leonard had a chance to tie the game, but a long shot missed the mark and Hensley pulled in his eighth rebound of the contest to secure the victory.
Hensley and Shannon shared high point marks for the victors with 17 points with Matt Johnson the other Shark in double figures with 12 points to go along with a team high 6 assists.
On Tuesday, Ponte Vedra may have been out matched against a much taller and more experienced Bolles five, but they certainly were not outworked in the Shark’s 64-39 loss in the second round of the St. Augustine Holiday Classic.
Bolles put a starting five on the floor to begin the contest that featured five Division I players. With 6’7” Jack Johnson on a family vacation, coach Beech was unable to insert one player in his lineup that was taller than 6’3”.
It was the second straight defeat the Sharks have suffered at the hands of one of the premier basketball teams in Florida and each time Ponte Vedra got off to a very slow start.