Brahman basketball shoots for another district championship

OKEECHOBEE — Last year the Okeechobee High School boys varsity basketball team accomplished something that hadn’t been done in a little under 30 years.

They brought a basketball district championship back home to Okeechobee.

The Brahmans defeated their longtime district foe Jensen Beach 44-40, to become district champions for the first time since 1991.

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion
The Okeechobee County School Board honored the 2018-19 OHS varsity basketball team after the Brahmans won the district championship. Okeechobee Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy shows a page from the 1991 OHS yearbook featuring the varsity basketball team and then-player, now head coach, Demetre Riles.

It was an emotional and cathartic victory for the Brahmans, and for head coach Demetre Riles, who returned to helm the team after taking a break from coaching responsibilities. Riles stepped away from the program shortly before losing his wife, Rondia Riles, to breast cancer on Dec. 21 in 2018.

OHS Athletics Director Kenny Buckner took over for Riles, who understandably wasn’t sure whether he’d be back to coach that season. Ultimately it was the players themselves who helped persuade Riles to come back to the team.

After he returned to the team, the Brahmans went on an eight-game win streak all the way to the district championship.

Then-OHS Principal Dylan Tedders summed up the experience of seeing the Brahmans lift that championship trophy for the first time in nearly three decades.

“I can’t express the overwhelming sense of pride when I saw coach Riles lift the district championship trophy,” said Mr. Tedders after the win. “He is still mourning his loss while loving his Brahmans. He had that same trophy in his hands 28 years ago as a player. It’s a great story, and I’m just lucky to be a witness to it.”

Leaving the team after 2018 were two key players, J-Quan Ferrol and Jemal Davis. Both were awarded Big Lake Athlete of the Week during the 2018-19 season. Davis led the Brahmans in scoring with 312 points last season, followed by Ferrol with 283.

With the loss of two crucial players like Ferrol and Davis, many could expect the team to regress for the 2019-20 season. But Riles has never been one to accept anything less than the best, and he has his team poised to make another run.

Okeechobee dominated Palm Beach Central and Royal Palm Beach in a preseason tournament on Nov. 19-20. The Brahmans beat Palm Beach Central 60-54 and Royal Palm Beach 75-49.

Brahman senior Malcolm Kelly announced his presence this season by scoring 30 points against Royal Palm Beach. Against Palm Beach Central Kelly had 20 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.

Okeechobee opens up their 2019 season on the road against Treasure Coast on Dec. 3, before hosting the first home game of the season against Westwood on Dec. 6.

Okeechobee and Treasure Coast tip off at 7 p.m. on Dec. 3 at Treasure Coast High School.

Richard Marion is a staff writer and photographer at Lake Okeechobee News and can be reached at rmarion@newszap.com.

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