OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee High School Brahman varsity basketball team fell to the Pembroke Pines Jaguars in the regional final on Feb. 28, 72-55. The loss snaps a 13-game winning streak for Okeechobee.
The Brahmans finish with a 26-3 record this season.
Okeechobee jumped out early on the Jaguars thanks to big shots from Brahman seniors Silas Madrigal and De’nitrik Whittaker. The Brahmans led 16-14 at the end of the first quarter, but some accurate foul shots by the Jaguars and turnovers by Okeechobee let Pembroke Pines even things up in the second quarter.
The Brahmans trailed by only one point, 28-27, as the two teams headed into halftime.
Two early turnovers killed Okeechobee’s momentum in the third quarter and allowed the Jaguars to take a 33-27 lead. Pembroke’s offense was able to move the ball down court quickly, not allowing Okeechobee’s defense to set up.
That script played out all throughout the second half: Pembroke would force a turnover, move the ball down court and increase their lead.
It didn’t help that the usually reliable Okeechobee three-point shots just wouldn’t go in for the Brahmans.
Pembroke Pines senior Dallas Graziani was on fire from the three-point line in the second half, which helped the Jaguars jump out to a double digit lead. Graziani would go on to put up 31 points in the regional final.
A clutch three-point shot by Markeze Kelly and free throw by Whittaker brought Okeechobee within eight points with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. But Pembroke’s fast break offense was able to swing momentum their way again and keep the game out of reach for the Brahmans.
The packed crowd in the OHS gym gave the Okeechobee team a standing ovation as the game came to a close. After the game Brahman players came out, walked around the gym and thanked the fans who supported the team throughout their remarkable run this season.
The crowd played an important role in the game before the regional final even started.
The playback system malfunctioned after just the first verse of the national anthem. Without missing a beat, a few members of the crowd picked up the next verse and started singing the anthem. By the end of the song the entire gym had joined in, giving the anthem a roaring finish.
Okeechobee senior Mikal Kelly led the Brahmans in scoring with 14 points, followed by Markeze Kelly with 11 and Whittaker, Madrigal and Malcolm Kelly with eight.