West Melbourne Christian Academy made a strong run for a championship before finishing as runner-up in its division of the National Association of Christian Athletes basketball tournament over the weekend in Tennessee.
The Knights lost the Division 5 championship game, 54-50, to a team from Indiana, the Columbus Christian School Crusaders.
West Melbourne coach Mark Siler said he was proud of the team, which finished the season 30-3 and was the Florida Christian Conference champion.
The Knights won three games in the national tournament to get to the final.
In the championship game, the Knights jumped out to an 18-6 lead late in the first quarter and led, 29-23, at the half. But the Columbus Crusaders chipped away at the lead and prevailed in a game that went to the wire. Columbus twice previously had been the tournament runner-up before winning the championship on Saturday.
West Melbourne’s Isaac Hagans and J.C. Roman made the all-tournament team, and Hagans was named defensive most valuable player.
The team also had three players on the All-Florida Christian Conference team: Emmanuel Clarke, Kaleb Dempsey and Jonathan Perez, who was MVP of the state tournament.
This year’s West Melbourne team had six seniors, including all of the starting five, plus four juniors. They come from the Melbourne, Palm Bay and West Melbourne areas and have a cumulative grade-point average of 3.4.
At the end of the National Association of Christian Athletes online broadcast of the championship game, the commentators complimented the Knights for their character, class, competitiveness and good sportsmanship. They said the Knights are a great team, are well-coached, played like champions and have a lot to be proud of.
Siler, who is in his 10th year coaching the team, said his seniors “have gotten a lot of looks” from college coaches, including some who were at the national tournament in Dayton, Tennessee.
“I was proud of them,” Siler said. “This was a very special team, and I told them they were building a legacy” that could help the school and its sports programs grow.
The school is affiliated with New Hope Sanctuary, where Siler is an associate pastor. He also is the school’s principal and athletic director.
The school has 135 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, including 56 in grades nine through 12. So the pool of students for the boys’ basketball team is relatively small, making the team’s accomplishments this year even more impressive.
West Melbourne Christian Academy roster
Coach: Mark Siler
Assistant coach: James Cook
Emmanuel Clarke #35
Kaleb Dempsey #30
Isaac Hagans #34
C.J. Jerry #23
Jonathan Perez #10
J.C. Roman #1
Tashwayne Blake #11
Shakel Cook #3
Xavier Johnson #13
Jesse Pace #32