Sharks’ inaugural Alumni-Varsity game a success

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Ponte Vedra High School basketball fans were treated to a view of the past, as well as the future, when the first annual Alumni-Varsity basketball game was played on June 3 at the Shark Tank. The game featured more than 25 former Ponte Vedra players, including current pro, former University of North Florida star and  the all-time scoring leader at PVHS, Beau Beach.

For many of the fans who were part of the large crowd and missed out on seeing the current Sharks team play due to COVID-19 restrictions, it would mark their first glimpse of the current PVHS squad, which posted an all-time best record of 22-5 this past season.

After an entertaining evening where they witnessed about 11/2 hours of basketball, it became very clear that Ponte Vedra will have a rosy future with those returning for the 2021-22 basketball campaign.

Yet another highlight of the evening took part midway through the festivities when senior guard Alex Madson officially signed a tenure to attend and play basketball for Transylvania University.

Two of the regulars from last season’s stellar squad  — Jack Polian and Rory Mayer — suited up for the alumni, and they were joined by a large contingent of former Sharks, who displayed their talents against the young varsity.

The varsity Sharks came out on fire in the first 10-minute period, giving Sharks fans a promising preview of what lies ahead next season. Although 6-foot-5 senior Luke Pirris, who has been busy with numerous football camps, made just a token appearance, a number of his teammates have shown they have certainly raised their game.

With 6-foot rising junior Nathan Bunkosky leading the attack as the point guard, the Sharks opened the first period by outscoring the alumni 31-16. Rising senior JT Kelly drilled four 3-pointers in the frame and tallied 14 points with Buncosky netting seven points while dishing out four assists.

Although the score was highly irrelevant, the teams played five 10-minute quarters with the fifth period consisting of players who saw limited action in the first four frames. After displaying some understandable rust, the vets rallied back from a large first-period deficit to make the final score 105-96 after four periods, showing the varsity Sharks winning by nine points.

In addition to Beach, Quinn Carey, the third leading PVHS point producer of all time, traveled down from New York to play and visit with his teammates from the past. 

Making his first public appearance in a Sharks uniform, and one who will certainly make a huge impact for the upcoming season, was 6-foot Ross Candolino, a transfer from Bishop Kenny. Candolino, the son of former Bolles head coach Anthony Candolino, will bring a lofty 14 points-per-game scoring average to the Sharks next season.

Also playing very well for the Sharks varsity was 6-foot-3 rising junior Israel Nuhu, who in addition to his eight points, led all Shark rebounders with 11, as well as four blocked shots. A pair of brothers who will make the jump from the junior varsity team also showed some exceptional promise. Rising junior Ben Ritchie tallied 13 points during the contest, while his younger brother, sophomore-to-be Sam Ritchie, was also in double figures with 10 tallies.

The event was such a success that it now appears the Varsity-Alumni game will become an annual affair with next year’s contest tentatively scheduled to be played over the 2022 Memorial Day weekend.

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