Sharks hope to lick their wounds in final week of the season


Special to the Recorder

Last week was a topsy-turvy one for the Ponte Vedra basketball team. There was some good, some bad and the week concluded with a big question mark as Coach Bud Beech’s Sharks head into the final week of the regular season.

The Sharks enjoyed a rare home game played last week when they made amends for an earlier 21-point blowout loss on the road at Bartram Trail with a well-earned 74-67 win over the always competitive Bears. The two games played on the road, however, were less than rosy for the locals. A day earlier, the Sharks played one of their poorest games of the season in a narrow two point 43-41 loss to Clay Co, the first win ever for the Blue Devils over Ponte Vedra in basketball.

It appeared that Ponte Vedra was again going to hold the whammy over the host Blue Devils when they raced out to an early 11-1 lead. The Blue Devils took control of the contest for the next two quarters as the Sharks were only able to score three points in the pivotal third quarter.

Shaking off his rust after missing the previous five games, J.D. Pirris kept the Sharks close to the Blue Devils by scoring 10 of his game-high 16 points in the final quarter.

Despite their district loss to Clay, the Sharks will still enter the upcoming playoffs beginning Feb. 7 in Palatka as the district’s No. 1 seed. Ponte Vedra will open up the tourney at 6 p.m. against the winner of the Feb. 6 game between Menendez and Matanzas.

The Sharks recovered quickly the following evening after the loss to Clay when they returned to the Shark Tank for only the second time in 14 games. Eston Hensley lit up the scoreboard in the first quarter when he ripped the nets for 14 points, as the Sharks raced out to an early lead and never looked back. Hensley would finish the evening with a career-high 25 points while Pirris was close behind with 23. Coach Beech received a big lift from his 6’8” junior center Jack Johnson in the Bartram win with nine points and seven blocked shots.

Friday’s loss at Providence to the area’s top rated team was certainly not unexpected, but their poor shooting and sloppy passing were the least of their concerns in the defeat. Three-year starting guard Pirris, while frustrated with his driving layups that agonizingly hung on the rim before falling into the waiting arms of a Stallion player, left the game with a sprained ankle in the third quarter, leaving his status for this week, and the upcoming playoffs, up in the air.

The Shark duo, who combined for 48 points in Wednesday’s victory over Bolles, had a complete 180 reversal against Providence as they paired up to make but 2-19 of their two-point shot attempts.

It was clear that many of the Sharks were either intimidated or in awe of the tall and talented Stallions, coached by Jim Martin, the coach for prep basketball’s most prestigious post- season event at the McDonald’s classic. Providence was led in scoring by former Menendez player Zachary “Scooty” Bryant, this year’s odds-on favorite to take home player of the year honors for the First Coast. 

The Sharks now will take their still impressive 13-9 overall record into this week’s final three regular-season contests beginning with this past Tuesday’s home game against neighboring Fletcher High.

Following a Thursday road trip west on Interstate 10 to play a very good Baker County five, the Sharks will play their final home game of the season Friday night in front of what surely will be a packed and enthusiastic crowd when they host arch rival Nease.