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After strong regular seasons, PECS basketball teams await playoffs

PECS’ Shaela French (22) and Haylie Huff (5) eye a rebound against Clewiston on Jan. 19. (Kevin Johnson photo)

BRIGHTON — For the first time an additional caveat to the middle school basketball season awaits PECS teams in the form of a playoff.

PECS and its opponents decided there should be more to the culmination of a season than just the end of a regular season. So, this season the boys and girls teams will vie for conference championships. Specific details were still being ironed out as of press time, but the debut of the postseason is scheduled for early February. PECS will be the host school for both the girls and boys.

“I think it’s great,” said PECS boys coach Kevin Jackson.

PECS girls coach Tim Thomas also supports the playoff concept and the crowning of a champion.

“Hopefully it will be us,” he said.

Before the start of the playoffs, both PECS teams had to finish up work in their regular seasons, which included honoring their outgoing eighth-graders before facing Clewiston in a doubleheader Jan. 19.

After 10 straight wins, the PECS boys were dealt their first loss by Clewiston, 60-51, in a fast-paced battle of unbeaten teams.

“That was the most competitive game,” Jackson said.

Donovan Harris led the hard-working Seminoles at both ends. He scored 23 points followed by Jaylen Baker with 11 and Ramone Baker with 8.

With quick guards such as Dathan Garcia and Dakoya Nunez, PECS’ swarming defensive pressure has been a key ingredient in the team’s success this season, but the squad’s depth isn’t as deep as it was earlier in the year.

“We like to play uptempo and put a lot of pressure on them, but with the depth we have right now we can’t do that all the time,” Jackson said. “I thought we handled the ball well; we just didn’t come up with a few more stops defensively.”

Before the boys game, the PECS girls overwhelmed Clewiston, 46-10, to continue an impressive season that coach Thomas didn’t expect.

“They really surprised me. I didn’t think we were going to be this good. At one point, we were 8-0,” Thomas said.

Fittingly, two eighth-graders led the way. Sisters Caylie Huff (13 points) and Haylie Huff (11 points) were the team’ s top scorers. Shaela French, another eighth-grader, scored 7 points as did Karey Gopher.

“Haylie shot good tonight,” Thomas said. “[The previous night] she had zero points and I told her we needed her. She picked it up tonight.”

PECS entered the playoffs with a 10-2 record. Thomas said the team wasn’t far away from a perfect season.

“It’s been a good year; could have been better; he said. “We missed 18 free throws and lost by one against LaBelle. Over at West Glades, we had like 12 layups that we missed. We could have been undefeated right now, but we still have the conference to go.”

PECS guard Caylie Huff fires a pass to a teammate during the team’s win against Clewiston on Jan. 19. (Kevin Johnson photo)
PECS’ Kalyn Hammil tries to knock the ball away from a Clewiston player Jan. 19. (Kevin Johnson photo)
PECS guard Donovan Harris battles for the ball against Clewiston on Jan. 19. Clewiston handed PECS its first loss of the season. (Kevin Johnson photo)
PECS guard Dakoya Nunez takes a shot against Clewiston on Jan. 19. (Kevin Johnson photo)
PECS guard Ramone Baker goes the extra effort to try to win a battle against Clewiston. (Kevin Johnson photo)
Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at