BRIGHTON — With nine graduating players to honor, Kevin Jackson might as well have added florist to his duties as Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School boys basketball coach. Jackson’s hands were full of yellow roses that he distributed to families of each eighth-grader during a pregame ceremony at midcourt before the varsity team’s final home game Jan. 19, a 44-36 win against Osceola Middle School.
The following night PECS raced past Moore Haven, 44-29, to finish its season with an 11-1 record.
“It’s a great season; no complaints,” Jackson said.
PECS cranked out seven straight wins to start the season before encountering its only blemish, a loss to Clewiston in mid-January.
“Sure, I would have loved to go undefeated, but sometimes that happens,” Jackson said.
The annual eighth-grade parent night recognized Alex Armstrong, Jarrett Bert, Robert Harris, Silas Madrigal, Tucker Johns, Travis Jumper, Kamani Smith, Dante Thomas and Alex Valdes. A few of the players spent the season on junior varsity, but most were on a varsity club that went 6-0 at home.
Some of the favorite memories players listed for their introductions included a blowout win against Yearling (Travis), keeping the winning streak alive with a victory against LaBelle (Dante), making four 3-pointers against Moore Haven (Silas) and an opponent mistakenly scoring a basket for PECS (Kamani).
The starting five in the home finale consisted of Alex, Dante, Kamani, Robert and Silas. The Seminoles showed they could score from inside and outside with power and finesse that Osceola Middle struggled to contain. The balanced attack included a game-high 17 points from Silas and five points from Alex, both guards, and 12 points from Robert and six points from Kamani, both center/forwards whose size will no doubt be missed next season.
PECS emerged from the locker room at halftime with a 20-15 lead and promptly displayed how much they like to run. They went on an 8-2 spurt, which included baskets from Silas on a fastbreak layup and a fadeaway jumper, and a score from Robert on a smart inbounds pass from Alex.
Later in the game, Alex heeded the “Arizona” play call from Jackson on the sideline and again successfully worked an inbounds play under the basket. This time the result was an easy basket by Kamani.
“We played much better than the first time we played them. We showed a lot more patience, a lot more discipline,” Jackson said. “We came out scoring in the second half. That’s when we started picking it up and playing better; a little more up tempo.”
In the fourth quarter, Dakoya Nunez banked in a 3-pointer that opened a 10-point lead for PECS. Silas scored five points in his final quarter at home, highlighted by a coast-to-coast layup.
In the season finale at Moore Haven, Silas led the way with 22 points and Robert chipped in 13 points.
Most of the eighth-graders noted that they planned to continue playing basketball after middle school. Whether all of them suit up for teams again remains to be seen, but at least they will have a memorable eighth-grade season to recall.
“I’m proud of these guys,” Jackson said.