Gainesville’s season ends in region final

Gainesville's Theo Stephens scored 23 points and Josh Hayes added 13 points on Friday against Ponte Vedre.
Gainesville's Theo Stephens scored 23 points and Josh Hayes added 13 points on Friday against Ponte Vedre.
Photos by Megan V. Winslow and C.J. Gish

The Gainesville Hurricanes’ boys basketball team’s run in the 6A state playoffs ended in a flurry of 3-pointers on Friday night.

Host Ponte Vedra knocked down 12 three-pointers and pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat Gainesville, 72-61, in the Region 1-6A final as the Sharks advanced to the Class 6A state semifinals for the second straight year.

Ponte Vedra (22-6), who lost to Martin County (Stuart) in last year’s state championship game, will face Wekiva (Apopka) in a state semifinal next Thursday at RP Funding Center in Lakeland.

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The Sharks came out of the gate on fire, hitting five 3-pointers in the opening period, including three in a row from senior Nathan Bunkosky, and finished the quarter on an 18-6 run for a 21-12 lead.

But Hurricanes senior Theo Stephens heated up in the second quarter, and Gainesville (23-7) got right back into the game.

Stephens scored 10 of his game-high 23 points in the period, including six straight points on long-range shots late in the quarter, as the Hurricanes cut the deficit to 32-31 by halftime.

Gainesville was only down one despite only hitting one shot from distance in the first half compared to seven treys for Ponte Vedra.

The Hurricanes extended the run to 10-0 at the beginning of the third quarter to take a 35-32 lead. This matched their largest lead of the game.

But the Sharks caught fire from three-point land again, as senior Sam Ritchie and junior Brendan Hynes hit two 3-pointers apiece, and Ponte Vedra went on a 19-8 run to go ahead 51-43 by the end of the third quarter.

Stephens scored eight of Gainesville’s 12 points in the third period.

But the Hurricanes could never get a run going against the Sharks in the final period as Gainesville could only close the gap to seven points on four occasions, and Ponte Vedra kept the Hurricanes at bay behind Bunkosky, Ritchie, and senior Israel Nuhu. The Sharks biggest lead was 13 points as they cruised to the win.

Stephens was held scoreless in the final period and was ejected from the game with two technical fouls with two minutes left. He finished his career as a 1,000-point scorer for Gainesville.

Seniors Josh Hayes, Seth Childers and S.J Westbrook scored 13, 9, and 8 points, respectively, for Gainesville. The Hurricanes missed out on their first state semifinal appearance since 2015.

Boys basketball — Friday results
Region Finals
6A- Region 1
Ponte Vedra 72, Gainesville 61

Class 5A-Region 1
Mainland (Daytona Beach) 35, Columbia (Lake City) 34

Class 4A-Region 2
The Villages Charter 66, Santa Fe (Alachua) 60

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