I love basketball tournament season! I love to see teams that others had written off surprise the viewers and capture the victories! I love the high school tourneys, March Madness in our college tourneys, and the NBA playoffs. For our family, we have been blessed to be able to have some exciting tourney seasons.
This weekend, the girls and I have had the wonderful opportunity to cheer on my nephew and niece, AJ and Abbie!! The Jiles family and our family have grown up together and have often felt more like brothers and sisters compared to cousins. They moved to North Dakota for 2 1/2 years and have been back in the south with us this last year. When my husband died in August 2011 from a work related accident and when my only son PK was instantly killed in a car accident at the age of 18 in June 2013, then the Jiles family has deeply mourned both of their losses. Kirk was a loving uncle to all four of the Jiles kids and close to Alonza and Kristen. Kirk referred to Alonza as his double brother… his brother in family and in faith. Alonza and Kirk had the opportunity to work together as adults for many years, and Alonza had a deep impact on Kirk’s faith and on his walk with The Lord. Kristen made Kirk laugh in so many ways, and he often had stories about her that he loved to share. He adored his niece and nephews and had many special times with them in their childhood. How I wish that he was able to see all of the wonderful things that they are doing now. He would have loved it!!
When PK was born, Alonza would spend lots of time coming over and seeing him. I remember watching the true joy that Alonza had in his nephew, and PK looked up to him right from the start. PK was blessed to grow up hearing his uncle preach, and I know that Alonza had such a lasting impact on PK’s faith as well. Aunty Kristen was such a special part of PK’s growing up and truly loved him and found joy in who he was. When AJ was born, PK was so proud of him. AJ and PK were bonded right from the start. They were close and had such great adventures together no matter where we were. When Abbie was born, then PK found joy in her from the beginning. Abbie’s personality would make PK laugh all of the time. When Isaac was born then PK was so excited. Isaac brought so much laughter just as his name means, and to this day when I am listening to Isaac there are times that he reminds me so much of PK. When Caleb was born then PK was so excited. PK would talk about how smart Caleb was and all of the great things that Caleb was going to do in his future. PK never had a brother and then he felt like he had 3. I have been and always will be so extremely thankful for the incredible bond that PK, Kylee, and MiKayla have had with the Jiles kids and continue to enjoy to this day. When they are together, the joy that is there is a blessing beyond words.
The girls and I have been able to watch AJ and Abbie play 6 games so far this season with 5 of them occurring in the tourney season! We have loved every minute of it and have been so thankful for the opportunity to cheer them on. AJ is a senior and is such an incredible young man. AJ’s team advanced from the district tourney to the regional tourney. In the regional tourney, they started out with a win which qualified them for the state tourney. Last night, they played in the final four of the state tourney. They were ahead by one point with 3 seconds left in the game. Sadly, the other team hit a last second shot and won by 2 which advanced them to the state championship. I watched AJ and his team as they were devastated with the loss. Just within a few seconds, the outcome had changed. We were so excited hoping that they were off to the state championship and instead with one final shot, their basketball season had ended. The emotions were evident on all of the players and their families and fans. That is the difficult part of tourney season… no matter how awesome your season has been almost all of the teams end their seasons with an eventual loss in the tourney season with the exception of the state champions and any winners of consolation brackets in tourneys. I love to watch the victories of the other teams and to see the excitement and joy that they feel when they advance and have stayed alive for the next game, but I am also sad for the teams that end their season in defeat. I always hope as I did last night for AJ and his team that as they work through the pain of their loss that they will be able to still have joy in all of the incredible highs that they had in their season.
AJ’s ending reminded me so much of my PK’s final season. The last season that PK played before he died was in his junior year. His team had an awesome season and like AJ was in the final four of the state tourney. PK’s team also lost that game, and I remember my son feeling so sad and disappointed that they did not capture that victory and advance to the state championship. He and his team had worked so hard and were so close to finishing their season in that top spot that they so desperately wanted to achieve. I was most definitely having flashbacks last night to PK’s last season as I watched AJ and his team. AJ was proudly wearing his cousin’s number #34 to honor him. As AJ and I were texting last night, I tried to remind him of how proud the girls and I are of him and of how proud PK was of him always. AJ so sweetly said to me, “I’ve always wanted to be like PK in everything that I do so I worked extra hard in every workout thinking about him.” Oh how this sweet young man always blesses this mom’s heart! I can’t wait to see all of the incredible things that God does in you and through you AJ… I know that you are off to such great things, and we love you so very much!! We could not be more proud of you.
Abbie’s team was also in the final four last night and had an incredible game and got their ticket to the state championship next weekend! We were so excited to have the opportunity to be there to cheer them on! Abbie wants to be a college basketball player, and she most definitely has the skill set to do it! Abbie has many athletic gifts and in basketball she sure shines as she does in so many areas in her life. I got to see one of my favorite parts of tourney season last night as I watched Abbie and her team celebrate their victory. The girls and I love watching Abbie as she plays. She has so many gifts in ball handling, shooting, and her incredible basketball IQ! We loved watching her anticipate what the other player was going to do and get the steal and drive down the court and make her lay ups. Abbie also has an incredible outside shot. The girls and I hope to be able to cheer on Abbie in many future games in her senior year and as she continues on in college. Abbie is an incredible young lady, and God has given her so many gifts. Abbie brings incredible joy to all of us just as she did to her uncle and cousin PK. We love you so much Abbie and are so incredibly proud of you!!
I loved watching my two girls cheer on their cousins. I smiled as I thought back to their incredible basketball years and still have to pinch myself that MiKayla’s are over. MiKayla’s team advanced to the regional tournament this season, but did not qualify for the state as I shared in my coach’s blog. MiKayla has definitely felt sadness over her season ending this past week, but I love how she finds true joy in cheering on her cousins to their victories. Many memories are popping up on the timelines from last year’s season when MiKayla’s team was the state champions. That tournament season was such an incredible ride… we had a blast and will always treasure it! I know that MiKayla continues to celebrate that season in her heart and it is so fun to see her wearing her state championship ring knowing that she is remembering and celebrating their incredible season last year. My Kylee girl’s senior season ended up in the elite eight for her last games. Kylee was always such a hard worker on the court as she continues to be in all areas of her life. Kylee has been so thankful that she has had the opportunities to cheer on her cousins as well.
Sports always have so many good life lessons wrapped up in them. I watched as my nephew Isaac last night with tears in his eyes was feeling the pain of his big brother’s loss and was trying to process it. Unfortunately, we all have different disappointments and hurts that come into our lives at different times. Sports definitely give kids opportunities to practice how to handle some of them. We encouraged Isaac and Caleb in their future careers to work hard and to come back with that victory for their big bro.
I continue in disbelief that my three childrens’ high school sports careers have been completed. However, I am so grateful for each moment, each lesson, each success, and every other opportunity that my three experienced in high school sports. I watched my children grow in so many ways throughout their seasons. I am thankful for each victory that they have experienced. I am thankful for the incredible lessons of hard work, effort, perseverance, and teamwork that they have learned. It truly has been an awesome ride with each of them.
It has been a true honor to watch Kylee and MiKayla proudly wear their brother’s number 34 during their seasons. As I walk through the hall of the gym where his two retired jerseys hang (one for basketball and one for football), I sometimes reach up and touch them as I reflect on my son’s life. 4 1/2 years later, and I still cannot believe he is not here with me. I miss him with every part of me. I am ever thankful for each moment that I had with my PK, but I truly miss him with my whole heart.
As high school season wraps up this next weekend and as we continue into March Madness, I hope that we will continue to learn lessons from our players, coaches, and teams… I hope that we will all remember that hard work and giving our all are always worth it. May we all live to the best of our ability and with NO EXCUSES and NO REGRETS.
“Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.” John Wooden
Let’s gooooooo Abbie 🙂