When Reggie Branch started coaching the boys basketball team at Turner/Bartels K-8 School in Live Oak Preserve, he knew he was building something special.

The team went 3-2 his first season in 2016. Last year, they made the county’s middle school semifinals.
And this year?

Turner/Bartels is the Hillsborough County Middle School Champion!

Behind big games from Karmello Branch, Chandler Davis and Sean Scott, the Tigers capped off an undefeated season with a 68-53 win over Shields Middle School from Ruskin in the county championship game, while also winning the first sports title of any kind for Turner/Bartels.

“It was a big moment for the kids, you could see it meant a lot to them,” said Coach Branch. “They gave me 100 percent all season right through the final game.”

Branch’s son, Karmello, led the way in the final with 27 points, while Davis scored 19 and Scott added 10. All three players are eighth-graders.

Karmello averaged more than 20 points in the three playoff games for the Tigers, who finished the season 8-0.

Despite losing four starters from last year’s semifinalists, Branch said his team was the best around without question.

“We were pretty dominant through the whole season, and the playoffs,” he said. “Every win we had was by at least 15 points.”

Karmello and Davis, both guards, led the team in scoring, while Scott played the point and hit some big 3-pointers. Branch said forward Alex Mejia was a defensive stopper for the team, while center Reggie “RJ” Bell was a top rebounder and shot-blocker.

Branch said his keys to the team’s success were simple — work hard on the court and harder in the classroom.

“Academics come first,” the coach said. “If you are a class clown…or a headache….or give your teachers a hard time, you can’t play for us.”

On the court, Branch preached a fast, high-pressure approach. The Tigers ran the ball on offense, played full-court pressure on defense and weren’t shy about putting up their shots.

“Up the court in four (seconds), score in five,” Branch says. “You had to be in pretty good shape to be able to run with us.”

The Tigers roster also included Charles Bent, Kaine Branch, George Danso, Chandler Davis, Tavoy Feagin, Connor Hodges, Elijah Horsey, Anthony Jones, Logan Lambert, Nicholas Mejia, Brodie Morris, Tre Pompilus and Caleb Thomas.

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