OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee Brahmans survived a late rally in the fourth quarter and unplugged the Suncoast Chargers to win their second consecutive district championship on Feb. 14.
The Brahmans varsity basketball team will now move on to host the regional quarterfinal against Belen Jesuit on Feb. 20.
Okeechobee won the district championship the same way they’ve won many of their games this season, with great defense. Suncoast played a tough schedule this year and came into the game with the second leading scorer in the district, senior and team captain Samuel Rolle.
The fast-break Chargers offense tested Okeechobee early, but the Brahmans withstood that early wave and pulled out to a lead in the first half. Okeechobee had a 10-point lead near the end of the second quarter before Rolle hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to shrink the Brahman lead to 34-27.
Okeechobee maintained its lead in the third quarter but, late in the fourth quarter, Suncoast made one final push to take the lead. With only 20 seconds left in the game, the Chargers pulled within two points, trailing the Brahmans 62-60. Suncoast had the ball and a chance to either tie the game or take the lead. But Okeechobee senior Malcolm Kelly stole the ball with 12 seconds left and called a timeout.
Out of the timeout Suncoast fouled Malcolm, who hit both free throws to make the game a two-score possession at 64-60.
Malcolm was nine out of 11 at the free–throw line during the district championship.
Suncoast had one more chance to score before time ran out on them, but the Brahmans once again stole the ball to secure the victory.
Okeechobee has put together a remarkable run this season to follow up their district championship win last year. The Brahmans have won 24 games this season and lost only two.
Last year after winning the district championship, the Brahmans were knocked out by Dillard in the regional quarterfinal by only one point, losing 45-44. Dillard would then go on a tear through the playoffs to advance all the way to the state championship.
Now the Brahmans have a chance to go a step farther than last year’s championship team did. Okeechobee is set to host the 17-10 Belen Jesuit Wolverines at Okeechobee High School in the first round of the regional tournament.
The Brahmans have earned the number two seed in the 4-5A region, while the Wolverines are the seventh. If Okeechobee can get past the regional quarterfinal, they’ll host either Norland or Boyd Anderson in the regional semifinal.
Okeechobee and Belen Jesuit tip off at 7 p.m. on Feb. 20 at OHS.