Last push for playoffs with district tournaments next up


The winter season is coming to an end for high school sports, and that means district tournaments and playoffs are right around the corner for both boys and girls basketball.

The Ponte Vedra boys basketball team has been on a tear of late as they had won four straight games as of Jan. 30 and they have won those games by an average of 24.5 points per contest.

What makes the Sharks (16-6) so dangerous to defend is that they spread the ball around with their offensive attack and have multiple players who can take off and be the leading scorer on a given night.

David Sanchez Barrera led the way with 18 points against Atlantic Coast on Jan. 18, while Sam Ritchie exploded for 24 against Bartram Trail on Jan. 23 and Tyler Cowan poured in 18 of his own for a team-high against St. Augustine two days later.

The balanced approach they take on offense has really started to hit its stride in recent weeks and the result has been massive leads the Sharks have been able to jump out to in the first quarters of each of their recent victories.

This, coupled with a down right stinginess on the defensive end will make them difficult to beat in the postseason when each possession tends to carry even more weight.

The Sharks will close out the regular season on the road against the Nease Panthers on Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m. as the outcome of the game between the rivals will also help decide the Sharks’ seeding for the district tournament next week.

The Panthers (12-10) have had a back-and-forth season, with the games they have won looking very good, so the potential has been shown but now it is all about building upon and sustaining that success.

Senior Bryson Utter runs the show for the Panthers from his point guard position and looks comfortable with the ball in his hands, en route to leading the team with 14 points and nearly four assists per game.

And throughout the season, another consistently productive force has been fellow senior Jack Sullivan, who provides a matchup problem with his size down low for many teams.

One of the Panthers’ calling cards has always seemed to be its defense and that is the case again this year, as it has not allowed more than 50 points in any game this season.

Just like the Sharks’ boys squad, the girls team has had a memorable year to this point, and even have the same record of 16-6.

However, they understand that all their goals are still in front of them, and that starts with winning the District 3-6A tournament, which they enter as the top seed and will automatically advance to the semifinals where they will play the winner of Nease and Fletcher on Feb. 7.

Both Morgan Gavazzi and Kennedy Rosendahl have reached 1,000 career points this year and the two seniors are the catalysts of the team as not just the stuffers of the stat sheet, but also in leadership roles.

They are both averaging double digits scoring per game with Gavazzi at 16.9 and Rosendahl with 11.9.

Fellow senior Maya Richards completes the trifecta of playmakers, as her versality makes her key to what the Sharks want to accomplish, as she averages 8.2 points and 7.4 rebounds a game.

The Panthers have endured a learning year of sorts with such a young team with many underclassmen playing major minutes.

However, the Panthers have still found success as the youth on the floor has mixed well with the experienced players on the team for a 13-10 record.

Freshman Audrey Rollins is one of the nice surprises on the team as she leads the group with 9.7 points per game, while junior McKenna Owens has grabbed a team-high 5.5 rebounds.

The Panthers are the No. 4 seed in the district tournament and will face Fletcher at home on Feb. 5 with the start time still to be determined.

Ponte Vedra Sharks, Nease Panthers, basketball