School board recognizes basketball team for historic season

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion
The 2018-19 district champion Brahman varsity basketball team appeared at the Okeechobee County School Board meeting on March 5.

 

The Okeechobee County School Board recognized the Okeechobee High School Brahman varsity basketball team for its accomplishment in winning the district championship against rival Jensen Beach on Feb. 16.

It was the first time the basketball program had won a district championship since 1991.

“If you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you might not know why this team is here tonight,” said Okeechobee Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy before introducing Brahman basketball coach Demetre Riles.

“We’re very fortunate to have had the winning basketball team we had this year

“One interesting thing I’ve learned is that the last time we went this far in basketball was back in 1991. And so we went back and pulled out the yearbook for that year, and it just so happens that one of the players on that team was Demetre Riles. He knew how to take these gentlemen all the way because he had been there himself.”

Kenworthy then congratulated Riles before giving him the chance to speak to the school board and local residents in attendance at the meeting.

“It’s been a pleasure to be the coach of a great group of guys like we have,” said Riles. “We had something special this year from start to finish. We overcame a lot of adversity as a team. For myself, after losing my wife, I didn’t know if I was going to coach again. But the staff at the high school were encouraging and really the players were encouraging me to come back to the sidelines with them. It was something special.”

 

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion
Okeechobee superintendent of schools Ken Kenworthy shows a page from the 1991 OHS yearbook featuring the varsity basketball team and then player and now head coach Demetre Riles.

Riles stepped away from the program shortly before losing his wife, Rondia Riles, after a long battle with breast cancer on Dec. 21.

OHS Athletics Director Kenny Buckner took over coaching responsibilities for Riles, who understandably wasn’t sure whether he’d be back. After his return on Jan. 29, Okeechobee went on a winning streak of eight in a row, including the district championship game.

The Brahmans would eventually fall to Dillard in overtime at the regional tournament, but Riles couldn’t have been more proud of the way his team performed in that game.

“I enjoyed every moment of it, even that last loss,” said Riles. “It didn’t feel like a loss. I asked my players to leave it all on the court and give it everything they had and they did that. They had nothing to hold their heads down for. They gave it all and brought it home.”

Riles will be coaching again in the Florida Athletic Coaches Association (FACA) All-Star game on March 23 after he was selected as FACA class 7A Coach of the Year for 2019. He’ll be joined by a familiar face on the all-star team — Brahman Jemal Davis,a who was selected as FACA Most Valuable Player. Brahman J-Quan Ferrol was named Class 7A Player of the Year by FACA and will be playing in a different all-star game on March 23, the Space Coast-Treasure Coast all-star game.

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

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