While he may be a freshman by classification, Kellen Simoneau looked like a savvy veteran hitting a big-time three-pointer with 1:18 remaining in overtime as the Rose Hill Rockets stunned Clearwater in the Class 4A sub-state Championship Game.
Rose Hill, which had trailed Clearwater for most of the game, came out the winner in a 52-49 victory. The Rockets are going to the state championship game in Salina, where the Rockets will return for the first time since 2016.
“It feels incredible," Rose Hill head coach Josh Shirley said. "It’s a testament to the kids and the hard work they put in.”
Koby Campbell, the Rockets leading scorer with 18 points, 11 of those came in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“We had lost to them previously by two and three points so we were putting in the work," Campbell said. "We were locked in and we knew we could come in here and get it done.”
At halftime, Rose Hill was down 25-22.
In the last five minutes of the fourth, Rose Hill made their move, taking the lead late. Clearwater missed a shot at the end of regulation, sending the game into overtime tied at 43-all.
“I don’t know if that was our defense or we just got lucky," Shirley said. "Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good so we’ll take that."
In the final minute of overtime, Campbell and Spencer Nolan shot free throws that put Rose Hill ahead 52-49. The Rockets’ defense was able to hold the Indians back and the home crowd, which had been loud and cheering for much of the game fell silent as the final seconds ticked away.
Rose Hill knew Clearwater was a good defensive team that would have to be matched.
“That’s what coach Shirley always wants us to hang our hat on is defense,” Campbell said. “All around we played the best defensive game we’ve played all year.”
Shirley said Nolan did a good job blocking Clearwater’s Drake Beatty, whom Shirley described as a “heck of a player.” He also praised Kellan Simoneau and Trenton Barnhart for holding back Clearwater’s Jake Wellington.
“Our guys stayed in there,” Shirley said. “They stayed resilient. It’s who we’ve been all year.”
The team has struggled in the season, losing six games in a row and seven of their last eight. Some of those losses have been heart breakers and some have leaving the Rockets wanting more. They brought back the Rose Hill squad that was ranked at one point.
“We struggled," Campell said. "We had a stretch of losing games but we kept our heads up, kept working hard and we knew what the ultimate goal was."
Rose Hill turned it around, beating Ulysses at home, the first home game the Rockets had won since Dec. 14.
“That’s huge,” Shirley said.
The Rockets return to state for the first time since 2016.
“My eighth grade year, I got to see the high school class win it and that was always a goal," Campbell said. "Every year we were just a game or two games short, so this year to get it for coach Shirley and the school is just great.”
Shirley told the team to enjoy the moment.
“It’s a special moment for the kids,” he said. “It’s something they’re gonna remember for the rest of their lives.
Rose Hill – 9; 13; 8; 13; 9 – 52
Clearwater – 9; 16; 7; 11; 6 – 49
Rose Hill: Campbell 18, Witt 10, Simoneau 9, Nolan 9, Barnhart 4, Land 2
Clearwater: Wellington 15, Tjaden 14, Cash 9, Gibbs 8, Rausch 3