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Two district titles in a row for Okeechobee as it heads to regionals

The Okeechobee High School girls basketball team celebrates after winning its second straight district championship. The Brahmans defeated Rockledge, 47-36, on Feb. 4, 2022, at Okeechobee High School. The Seminole Tribe’s Adryauna Baker is in the front row, second from right. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

OKEECHOBEE – When Okeechobee High School’s second straight girls basketball district championship became official, nobody celebrated as much as Adryauna Baker, the lone Seminole on the squad.

The Brahmans senior guard leapt into the arms of teammates at the final buzzer of a 47-36 win against visiting Rockledge in the Class 5A-District 13 championship Feb. 4.  

When OHS 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.

Even though a listening audience couldn’t see her, she smiled all the way through a postgame interview courtside with local radio station WOKC.

Okeechobee senior Adryauna leads a break against Rockledge in the Class 5A-District 13 championship Feb. 4, 2022, at Okeechobee HIgh School. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

Baker and the Brahmans had plenty of reasons to beam: two district titles in a row, an 18-4 record and a spot in the FHSAA regional playoffs as a No. 2 seed. The Brahmans and Rockledge will meet again in a regional quarterfinal at 7 p.m. on Feb. 10 at Okeechobee High School.

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

Okeechobee’s stingy defense, which has held opponents to fewer than 40 points 13 times, shined again in the final. Rockledge was held to just one point in the first six minutes of the game.  Okeechobee never trailed, although Rockledge managed to knot the score at 19-19 in the second quarter.

Torres said a big difference with this year’s squad compared to a year ago is depth.

“Last year I had six or seven deep; now I’m about eight or nine deep. Coming off the bench, they’re not losing a beat,” he said.

Okeechobee’s Adryauna Baker looks for an open teammate during the Class 5A-District 13 championship against Rockledge on Feb. 4, 2022, at Okeechobee High School. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

Part of that enhanced depth comes from the addition of starting freshman center McKenzie Neal, who has been a dominant force in the paint at both ends. Neal leads the team in several categories, including scoring (13.9 points per game) and rebounding (10.1 per game). She gave Rockledge all types of match-up problems on her way to 10 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks in the final.

The 6-foot-2 Neal is on a path to follow her big brother – 6-foot-7 University of Alabama football lineman and captain Evan Neal – into Division I athletics.  

“Coaches are in my inbox all day long. She’s going to be a D-1 athlete,” Torres said. “She’s the reason my shooters get wide open shots. We’ve never had that before.”

The team’s depth is accompanied by balanced scoring with Jasmine Shanks (10.8), Semaj Jasper (8.6) and Baker (7.8) behind Neal. Shanks led the way in the championship with 13 points.

Torres said his team’s ability to score from inside and outside makes it difficult for opponents to defend.

The title win kept Okeechobee’s home record unblemished at 11-0.

“I’m proud of these girls,” Torres said. “They put all the work in; I’m just here.”

Since the start of the season, Baker said the team has not only won together, but grown together.

“We’re all like sisters; we’re all like best friends,” she said. “We really trust each other, and we trusted each other [in the championship game] which led us to the win.”

Click here for the Class 5A tournament bracket.

Okeechobee fans react to a key basket in the Brahmans’ 47-36 win against Rockledge in the Class 5A-District 13 championship Feb. 4, 2022, at Okeechobee High School. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
Okeechobee freshman center McKenzie Neal passes the ball while guarded by two Rockledge players in the Class 5A-District 13 championship Feb. 4, 2022, at Okeechobee High School. Neal grabbed 14 rebounds in the Brahmans’ 47-36 win. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
Okeechobee’s Jasmine Shanks, who had a team-high 13 points, drives the lane in the Class 5A-District 13 championship Feb. 4, 2022, at Okeechobee High School. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
Okeechobee’s Morgan Tucker lines up a 3-pointer against Rockledge in the Class 5A-District 13 championship Feb. 4, 2022, at Okeechobee High School. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
Okeechobee’s Adryauna Baker is interviewed on local radio station WOKC after the team’s victory in the Class 5A-District 13 championship Feb. 4, 2022, at Okeechobee High School. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
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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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