Brahmans win regional game for first time since 1986

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion
The Brahman defense was able to shut down Belen Jesuit in the second half to secure the win and move on to the regional semifinal.

OKEECHOBEE — Brahman basketball head coach Demetre Riles has guided Okeechobee not only to back-to-back district championships but, now, their first regional playoff win in nearly 34 years.

The Okeechobee Brahmans varsity basketball team won their first regional playoff game since 1986 thanks to a dominating second-half performance against the Belen Jesuit Wolverines to secure the 54-38 victory.

Senior Malcolm Kelly led the team with 17 points against the Wolverines, with 11 of those points coming in the third quarter alone. Seniors De’nitrik Whittaker and Mikal Kelly had nine and eight points, respectively, against Belen Jesuit.

The Wolverines had a large and very vocal contingent of supporters who made the trip to Okeechobee from Miami for the regional quarterfinal on Feb. 20. Okeechobee maintained a slim lead over Belen Jesuit for much of the first half until the Wolverines hit a clutch three-pointer right at buzzer to take the 22-21 lead at halftime.

That three sent the Belen Jesuit faithful into a frenzy and silenced the packed crowd of Brahman fans in the OHS gymnasium.

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion
OHS Brahmans advance in regionals
Okeechobee High School senior De’nitrik Whittaker celebrates a three-pointer by Silas Madrigal in the second half of the district quarterfinal basketball game.

But, much like they’ve have all year, the Brahmans on the court showed no signs of panic. And they came out in the third quarter and dominated the Wolverines.

That boisterous Belen Jesuit crowd got a little bit quieter when Okeechobee seniors Silas Madrigal and Malcolm Kelly hit a pair of absolute stunners from beyond the three-point line to quickly regain the lead in the early going of the third quarter. As the that quarter ended, Malcolm was able to sink a beautiful fade-away shot to increase Okeechobee’s second half lead to 41-32.

Okeechobee closed out the game by outscoring the Wolverines 33-16 in the second half as the Brahman defense was able to force multiple turnovers. The few times Belen Jesuit had an open look at the basket, they just weren’t able to connect.

Okeechobee junior Alessio Dehart came up big in the second half, with four blocks and six rebounds.

The win increases Okeechobee’s record this year to 25-2. The Brahmans haven’t lost a game during regulation since back on Dec. 3, and they’re undefeated when playing at home in Okeechobee.

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion
The loud and boisterous Wolverine fans who made the trip to Okeechobee from Miami watch in stunned silence as the Brahmans shut down their team.

The Brahmans now advance to the regional semifinal where they’ll face the Boyd Anderson Cobras. The Cobras had the leading scorer in their district this year in senior Kemari Brown, who had 440 points this season.

Okeechobee has faced high-scoring offenses before and were able to shut them down. The Brahmans’ path to the district championship saw them shut down the two highest scorers in their district, Jensen Beach senior Lavarius Hampton and Suncoast senior Samuel Rolle, who each had over 400 points this season.

Okeechobee’s record earned them the second seed in the district, meaning they’ll get to host the regional semifinal.

The Brahmans and Cobras will tip off at 7 p.m. on Feb. 25.

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