The recently established culture of Pembroke Pines Charter basketball embodies excellence in all aspects, whether it be on or off the court.
Consistency in those matters has brought them back to the 5A Regional Finals, with a chance to win such for consecutive years. The Jaguars reached the state finals in Lakeland, FL last season but lost to Rickards after failing to overcome a comeback.
They’ll host Miami Norland on Friday, potentially opening the door to finishing things right and capturing their first state title in school history.
“At Pines Charter, we have embraced a culture that focuses on the student athletes’ minds, bodies and spirits,” said PPCHS assistant coach Michael Opalka. “Academically, we are a rated school. Physically, we challenge our athletes to develop a good work ethic. Our motto is: don’t be afraid to work hard in life.”
Pines Charter, 10-3 on the season, comes off a commanding 63-35 win over Boyd Anderson, in what was a rematch for the 5A District 14 championship. Junior guard Kolby King led the way, recording 15 points, four assists, three steals and two blocks.
“What this win says about me is that I know I’m built for the moment and hard work pays off,” King said. “We have a great team. Everybody is a scorer and can play any position. That’s what makes us great and hard to beat.”
The standard has been high for the Jaguars these past few months, considering victories against Westminster Academy, Hallandale and Westminster Christian.
Their road to states will be equally as difficult, starting with Norland. Led by junior Cameron Johnson, who’s averaging 15.2 points per game, and freshman Marcus Allen, whose unmeasurable potential earned him an offer from Florida State, the 20-8 Vikings will be a hassle to maintain.
“Miami Norland has a great tradition, indicated by the multiple state championships they have won in the past,” Opalka said. “They have certainly proven this year that they are the best team coming out of Miami Dade County.”
That said, experience in these moments favorite the Jaguars, who were state runner-ups in 2019-20 compared to Norland’s abrupt regional quarterfinal elimination. Still, after defeating Belen Jesuit (59-35) and Miami Northwestern (68-45), they’ve seemingly brushed away the past and look to continue with their winning ways.
Things could truly come down to the wire.
“To make sure we get another run at states we have to keep doing what we are doing, and that’s playing hard from the beginning to the end,” King said. “Playing together and knowing everyone’s key role in this game.”