BELLE GLADE — Just how good was the start for the Okeechobee High School girls basketball team in its game at Glades Day on Jan. 24?
Through three minutes, the score was Julia Smith 9, Glades Day 2.
Smith, a starting guard and one of three Seminoles who saw action against Glades Day, scored her team’s first nine points. The scoring outburst came as a bit of a surprise to Smith and just about everyone else.
She’s been relied upon this season to provide tenacious defense, which her coach said she’s excelled at, but she hasn’t been a huge factor in the scoring department, until the trip to Belle Glade.
Smith led the Brahmans to a comfortable 58-9 win.
“It felt good to score. Everyone was proud of me because it was kind of a shock you could say,” Smith said.
“This is her season high,” said Okeechobee coach Jovanny Torres. “She’s been more of a defensive player for us. When we go man-to-man, I put her on the best player and she usually locks ‘em up pretty good.”
Nobody locked up Smith as she finished with 12 points in abbreviated playing time.
With the game being one-sided, Okeechobee’s starters such as Smith and fellow Seminole Adryauna Baker only played about 10 minutes as players called up from the JV team, including the Tribe’s Caylie Huff, picked up varsity playing minutes.
Okeechobee’s defense held Glades day without a point for all of the second and third quarters and nearly the entire fourth quarter.
Offensively, Baker has put up impressive all-around numbers throughout the season. She poured in 22 points the previous night as the Brahmans racked up a season-high 77 points in a win at DeSoto County.
“Adryuana is doing everything. She almost had a double-double [vs DeSoto],” Torres said. “She had eight rebounds and six steals. She’s a work horse. She works her butt off. She’s not always the points person, but, like [vs Glades Day] when she gets the ball she pushes it up the court and she finds her shooters.”
Baker’s numbers have skyrocketed compared to a year ago; so, too, has the team.
“We have a lot more team chemistry since we did summer camps,” said Baker, who is averaging nearly 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds per game. “Us three [Seminoles] knowing each other and being from the same community helps a lot, too, because we’ve played together before.”
Huff, a junior, hit a 3-pointer against Glades Day. Torres said he continues to see improvement from her since the start of the season.
“She’s not hitting all her shots, but earlier in the year she would catch the ball and look for someone to pass to. I moved her [to JV] to get her confidence up and now she’s actually dribbling and looking for her shooters and taking shots. She’s leading scorer on JV team,” he said.
A fourth Seminole – Shaela French – is also on the JV team.
As for the varsity squad, the Brahmans will soon be focused on the district playoffs. They’ll likely be the No. 2 seed behind top-seed Jensen Beach.
Regardless of the outcome in the postseason, Torres has guided the team to a huge improvement.
The win at Glades Day coupled with proceeding wins against South Fork and Moore Haven upped the team’s record to 18-5, a long ways from a year ago when the squad was 6-15.
“We’ve come a long way,” Torres said. “I’m definitely proud of them. We’ve been playing really hard.”