Boys Basketball has Historic Playoff Run
By Kennedy Rosendahl
The Ponte Vedra High School boys basketball team has had a very successful playoffs run. After finishing the regular season with a record of 21-3, they have gone on to win district championships and regional championships. They have played five playoff games so far and are now competing for the state title in Lakeland on Thursday, Mar 3. Hopefully the Sharks can keep up their winning streak and bring home the state championship trophy.
To win the district title, the Sharks had two district games. Their first game was against the Atlantic Coast High School Stingrays. This game was not a challenge for the Sharks, and the final score ended up at 63-38. The Sharks controlled the whole game and swallowed the Stingrays’ offense. Senior, Luke Pirris, led the team with 16 points on the night. Ten Sharks players contributed points to the win, showing how deep their bench is. The next game was not so easy, against the Fletcher Senators. Earlier in the season, the Sharks had played a close game against the Senators, and the game went into overtime, but the Sharks won 52-49. This made the anticipation high for this game, and both teams were prepared. The game stayed tight the whole game and again, went into overtime. Overtime started with a layup and free throw from senior, JT Kelly. He also led all scorers with 11 points. He made two more free throws to put the Sharks ahead by four with ten seconds, sealing the game. Pirris also contributed ten points to the win.
The next step to success was the regional games. There were three rounds of the playoffs to win the title. The Sharks’ first game was against the Booker T. Washington Wildcats. The Sharks completely dominated this game, winning 68-35. They had a high overall field goal percentage of 49 percent, but what really won the game for the Sharks was their defense. They held the Wildcats to just 15 points in the first half by getting nine steals and 38 boards. Senior, Ross Candelino led all scorers with 19 points and Senior, Gus Jordheim trailed him with 11. The next game was against the Crestview Bulldogs. It was a closer game, but the Sharks pulled away at the end and the final score was 57-49. While the Sharks did not shoot as many three-pointers as they normally do, they played well in the paint. Candelino had 18, junior, Nathan Bunkosky had 15, and Pirris had 14. This game was a hard-fought offensive game, since both teams were finishing the ball inside well. The Sharks had three blocks and two charges, showing their defensive grit as well as their offensive skills.
Finally, there was the regional championship against the Fleming Island Golden Eagles. The atmosphere in the tank was electric, and every seat was filled. Both teams were prepared for a good game, since the Eagles also had a winning record. In the first quarter, the Eagles took charge. They used their size advantage in the paint to get some quick buckets in the paint. But this didn’t last long. Pirris adjusted his defense effectively and prevented their center from doing much more damage. He then took control of the Sharks offense; he was unstoppable. He used his athleticism and strength to take it in the paint and create scoring opportunities. He finished the game with 24 points, a season high for Pirris. The Sharks regained a lead in the second quarter and the half ended with a three at the buzzer from sophomore, Sam Ritchie. The third quarter was taken over by the Sharks and they created a significant 12-point lead. Kelly also contributed 12 points and Candelino had eight. As the buzzer went off, the Sharks became regional champions, winning 60-49. The students stormed the court, and the Sharks team celebrated their victory.
This team was the first ever Ponte Vedra High School boys basketball team to ever win the regional title. Now, the Sharks are off to the state tournament in Lakeland. After his team’s success so far, Candelino said, “The key to winning states is working together and being ready for anything our opponent brings at us. This game we have to box out and rebound because we are the smaller team.” This team definitely has to be tough to take on Winter Haven High School, who has a record of 23-7. Hopefully, their success continues, and they bring home a state championship.