Lady Brahmans go from afterthought to powerhouse in 2020-21

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Members of the Lady Brahmans celebrate a teammate sinking a layup.
Members of the Lady Brahmans celebrate a teammate sinking a layup.
OKEECHOBEE– The Okeechobee High School Lady Brahman’s 2020-21 season marked the next step in what has been an extraordinary turnaround for the varsity girls basketball program.

When head coach Jovanny Torres took over the reigns of the program in 2018, he was told that the team hadn’t won a playoff game in over three decades.

During his first season, the Lady Brahmans qualified for the district playoffs and managed to beat South Fork 57-52 in the district quarterfinal. With a playoff win under their belt, the Lady Brahmans had a new goal - make it to the district championship.

And, sure enough, that’s exactly what they did the next season.

Okeechobee put together a 20-7 record in 2019-20, beating Suncoast in the district semifinal and advanced to the district championship. But in the championship game, the Lady Brahmans fell by three points to Jensen Beach, 57-54.

Once again, Okeechobee set their sights on a new goal. In the locker room immediately after the heartbreaking loss, there was only one topic of discussion -- coming right back next year and claiming and district title.

In 2020-21 the Lady Brahmans went 13-4, locked up the first seed in their district, and dominated the Fort Pierce Westwood Lady Panthers 50-13 in the district championship.

“This season was definitely what I envisioned for this team when I first took over,” said Torres. “I knew they were young and it would be rough at first but if they put in the work and learned the system it would they could change the way people looked at girls basketball in Okeechobee.”

Coach Jovanny Torres talks to his team during a timeout.
Coach Jovanny Torres talks to his team during a timeout.

Only one game prior to their district championship rematch Fort Pierce Westwood had squeaked out a narrow 38-37 victory over the Lady Brahmans. Headed into the game the Lady Panthers were probably expecting another close game. But from the opening whistle it was clear the Lady Brahmans were on a diffrent level in the championship.

Okeechobee dominated the entire first half of the district championship, especially defensively. Junior Adryauna Baker’s aggressive and tenacious defensive play frustrated Westwood’s offense all game. The Lady Brahmans started fast and kept their foot on the gas for all four quarters. OHS was already up 25-8 late in the second half when sophomore Leta Adamo hit an absolutely clutch three pointer to go up 28-8.

At halftime Okeechobee led 32-11. And with the way the Lady Brahmans were playing defensively, the game was effectively over.

"We were the smaller team in almost every game we played,” explained Torres of his strategy this year. “We focused on the defensive end and trying to get points off turnovers and playing out in transition more instead of a traditional half court set. This came with hard work at practice. They had to run more and practice at game speed more to be able to put pressure on teams for all four quarters. Some days were harder than others but they all bought in and put in the work. I couldn’t be more proud of this group of girls.”

The Lady Brahmans not only achieved their goal of winning a district title this year, but they were able to secure an overtime win in the regional playoffs as well. Okeechobee came back from being down in the first quarter to defeat the Northeast Lady Hurricanes 40-37 in overtime in the regional quarterfinal. A few days later they were knocked out of the regional playoffs in the semifinal by perennial powerhouse American Heritage.

The Florida Athletic Coaches Association and Treasure Coast Lake Conference name Torres the 5A Coach of the Year for his work with the Lady Brahmans this season. But Torres gives credit to the team as a whole.

“It was a true team effort this year,” Torres concluded. “They earned everything they got this year. I owe it all to them. They put in all the hard work and trusted not only me but the process. It was so fun to watch.”

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