OKEECHOBEE – One of this season’s goals for the Okeechobee High School boys basketball team was to successfully defend its district championship.
That mission was accomplished Feb. 14 when the Brahmans edged Riviera Beach’s Suncoast High School, 64-60, in the Class 5A-District 13 championship at Okeechobee High School.
Okeechobee starting senior guard Silas Madrigal – the only Seminole on the team – scored five points. He said this year’s district title was more enjoyable than a year ago because of all the success the 2019-20 edition has racked up so far, such as a 24-2 record heading into the regional playoffs.
“This one was more fun because we’re winning a lot of games and we only have two losses,” Madrigal said after he celebrated at midcourt with his teammates, coaches and the district plaque.
Madrigal hit a 3-pointer late in the first quarter to give Okeechobee a 14-9 lead. He didn’t play in the second quarter, but started off the third with a fastbreak layup that put the Brahmans up 39-30.
The Brahmans led throughout the game, but Suncoast never went away. Okeechobee was ahead by 16 midway through the third quarter, but Suncoast chipped away and pulled to within two points twice in the final 1:40 of the game.
Up by two, the Brahmans corralled a crucial turnover with 12 seconds left and Malcolm Kelly made two free throws to seal the emotional victory.
Kelly finished with 13 points, which included a vital 4-for-4 from the line in the final minute.
His brothers Mikal Kelly (13 points) and Markeze Kelly (team-high 19 points) as well as Alessio Dehart (10 points) also topped double digits.
Experience and depth are cornerstones to Okeechobee’s strength. The Brahmans have seven seniors. A deep, athletic bench sees plenty of playing time and doesn’t allow opponents a break when starters come out.
“That’s a big advantage. [Opponents] can’t run with us,” Madrigal said. “We’ve got players that people can’t guard. We’ve got shooters, everything.”
Madrigal has compiled a solid final season. He’s averaging nearly 11 points per game. During a recent stretch, he scored in double digits in five consecutive games, including 12 points in a district semifinal win against Jensen Beach and 19 in a senior night win against South Fork.
“I’ve been working on getting stronger with the ball,” Madrigal said about his season.
The team will take an 11-game winning streak into a 5A-Region 4 quarterfinal Feb. 20 against Miami’s Belen Jesuit. Tip-off is 7 p.m. at Okeechobee High School. The Brahmans are the No. 2 seed; Belen Jesuit is No. 7.
The winner will advance to the regional semifinals Feb. 25 against Norland or Boyd Anderson. Northeast, of Oakland Park, is the top seed in the eight-team regional.