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District championship, two regional wins highlight Adryauna Baker’s final season

The Okeechobee High School girls basketball team celebrates after winning the Class 5A-Disrtrict 13 championship Feb. 8, 2022. The tribe’s Adryauna Baker, a senior guard, is in the front row, second from right. The team is coached by Jovanny Torres, far right, who is also the athletics director at Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School on the Brighton Reservation. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

PLANTATION — A season-ending loss by 36 points to powerful private school American Heritage-Plantation couldn’t damper the upbeat spirits of the Okeechobee High School girls basketball team. The Brahmans seemed determined to leave Heritage’s gym in a good mood despite the outcome in the Class 5A-Region 4 final.


After doing the postgame handshakes, the Brahmans immediately found their fans on the other side of the court and started happily chanting “selfie, selfie” as the cell phones and smiles came out for one final time this season following a 72-36 loss to Heritage on Feb. 18.


Indeed, Okeechobee, which included starting senior guard Adryauna Baker from the Seminole Tribe, had plenty of reasons to smile this season. There was a 20-5 record, a 10-game winning streak, a district championship for the second year in a row and two regional playoff wins, including an overtime thriller against Norland High School of Miami Gardens.


But Heritage – and especially Florida State recruit Ta’Niya Latson – proved to be too much to handle. Before the game even started, the Brahmans found themselves short-handed because senior Jasmine Shanks, who was supposed to guard Latson, did not play. Although they led 4-2 early, the Brahmans got into foul trouble as Heritage went on a 16-0 run. At one point, Okeechobee had seven fouls and Heritage had one.


“That kind of hurt our players who are fighting so hard and they’re playing great defense and they get called for fouls,” said Okeechobee coach Jovanny Torres. “It’s a blow to your stomach; it takes all the fight, all the will out of you and that’s kind of what happened.”


Both Baker and freshman standout center McKenzie Neal sat for portions of the first half due to foul trouble. When they returned, neither one was as aggressive defensively as they usually are as they tried to remain in the game. Neal eventually fouled out in the fourth quarter.

Okeechobee High’s Adryauna Baker brings the ball up court during the Brahmans’ district championship victory against Rockledge. (Photo Kevin Johnson)


Latson, a 5-star recruit who is ranked by ESPN as the nation’s top shooting guard in the 2022 class, racked up 40 points, most of which came on layups.


“It was really tough. Our goal was to stop her, but then we got into foul trouble,” Baker said.

“I don’t think anyone has ever scored 40 points on us,” Torres said.


Despite the foul trouble, Okeechobee trailed by only 12 at halftime and pulled to within 10 early in the third quarter before Heritage pulled away.


“I’m proud of [my team]. They could have easily given up with all these foul calls. They kept fighting,” Torres said.


Okeechobee came up one win shy of reaching the state final four. The team’s only final four appearance came in 1979 when the Brahmans lost to Tarpon Springs in the state semifinals.


Heritage went on to win its fifth straight state championship the following week in Lakeland. It defeated all opponents in the playoffs by 28 points or more.


A strong contingent of Seminoles attended the Okeechobee-Heritage game, including many from the Brighton and Hollywood reservations.


“There’s so much support from the tribe,” Torres said. “We appreciate everything they do for us. They sponsor us every year. The Brighton Seminole Council, (Councilman) Larry Howard, Boogie Johns, they’re tremendous for us. We couldn’t do it without them. Their support is amazing.”


In her final season with Okeechobee, Baker averaged 7.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 3.1 steals per game, all of which placed her in the team’s top four in each category. Nine times she hit double digits in scoring, including season-highs of 19 points in games against Port St. Lucie and South Fort Myers.


In the playoffs, Baker was the star in a 53-39 win against Rockledge in the regional quarterfinals Feb. 10. She scored 15 points and notched seven steals – both game highs. Baker hit three 3-pointers. She also had five rebounds, one assist and one block.


A few days earlier, Rockledge was also on the losing end of Okeechobee’s second straight district championship. Nobody celebrated as much as Baker, who leapt into the arms of teammates at the final buzzer of a 47-36 win the District 13 title game.


When Okeechobee athletics director Kenny Buckner presented the district trophy, Baker was the first to hoist it above her head before being swarmed by her jubilant teammates.


“It’s a much different feeling,” Baker said in comparison to last year’s district title, “but we knew we could do it. We kind of had to push ourselves a little bit more.”


Baker helped propel the Brahmans into the district final with a huge night in a 63-55 semifinal win against Eau Gallie. She had 13 points, three rebounds, two steals and two assists.


“She played great,” Torres said. “She was knocking down 3s. She played on the wing. She knocked down some deep 3s. Defensively, she’s been amazing.”


Torres said Baker, who has been a big presence in Okeechobee basketball for four years, will be greatly missed.


“She’s an outstanding player,” Torres said. “She stacks the stat sheet. Since her ninth grade year, she’s been amazing. Not having her next year is going to break my heart.”

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Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at kevinjohnson@semtribe.com.
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