Smith leads Rose Hill by El Dorado boys

Lionel Tipton

Since transferring to Rose Hill from Wichita East High, junior Adriel Smith has been a marked man on the basketball court. 

But Tuesday night, he proved that he is far from being the Rockets’ only weapon.

Smith still got his game-high 16 points, but contributed a number of crisp passes to his teammates and set them up for baskets in Rose Hill’s 70-59 victory at El Dorado.

“He’s known in this league now,” Rose Hill coach Josh Shirley said of Smith afterward. “He’s not a surprise anymore, so he’s going to have to be making the next pass like he did (Tuesday night) and finding his in spots, which I thought he did a good job of (doing).

“Teams are going to load up to try to stop him, so he did a great job.”

Even though he wasn’t nearly as dominant as he had been in many Rockets victories this season, his contribution to the triumph was significant. When he wasn’t scoring, Smith found ways to:

Fire cross-court passes to teammates and get the assist; throw a “home run” ball three-quarters of the court; lead the fast break and set up transition baskets. And just when El Dorado anticipated another of his passes, he crossed them up and drove the lane.

For Rose Hill, this was a night of balance, as three players joined Smith in double-figure scoring. Junior Xander Landrie, sophomore Kellan Simoneau and senior Kobe Koehler each hit two of the Rockets’ nine three-pointers in the game. Landrie finished with 13 points, Simoneau 11 and Koehler 10.

“We’ve kind of been stressing that,” Rockets coach Josh Shirley said afterward. “We didn’t feel like we moved the ball that well when we played against Ark City (a 61-52 road loss Jan. 29). Ark City’s a good team, but we weren’t pleased by how we played. So, we emphasized (that) the ball needs to move, find the next pass, find the open man. I thought for the most part (Tuesday night) we did a good job of that. 

“I haven’t seen our assist numbers, but I think they’re going to be higher than they have been recently, and I think that’s the kids trying to find the next pass.”

Every now and then, Smith would cut to the hoop for a layin, just to remind the defense not to sleep on him.

“He’s so quick, so sneaky, he can get in there with his left hand,” Shirley said. “He’s a special player, and he trusts his teammates to get the ball in his hands a little bit, so that helps.”

The game was tight early on, as Rose Hill found points hard to come by but eked out a 10-8 lead after the first quarter, powered by three-pointers from Landrie and Simoneau.

In the second quarter, when Rose Hill outscored El Dorado 24-9 for a 34-17 advantage at the break, Smith had one of the Rockets’ four three-pointers in the period. 

El Dorado (2-11) staged a strong comeback attempt in the third and fourth quarters, pulling to within 48-35 after three quarters. But Rose Hill’s early lead and its overall offensive effectiveness dashed any hopes the Wildcats had of an upset. El Dorado actually outscored Rose Hill in the second half, 42-36, but the Rockets’ cushion was more than enough to hold on for the victory. Rose Hill reserves were on the floor for most of the game’s final three minutes.

Rose Hill desperately needed the double-figure games from players other than Smith, Shirley said. 

“We hadn’t shot the ball well recently, and we knew we can,” he said. “That’s something I see in practice every day. We’ve got several guys who shoot the ball well in practice. Really frustrating, because their shots haven’t gone in (in games). But (Tuesday night), I felt like the lid came off the basket a little bit. That gives you confidence when you see it go in.

“We’ve got weapons; we’ve just got to put it together. That’s February and March basketball.”

As hard as first-year coach Drew Culbertson’s Wildcats have played, they still haven’t translated those into victories.

“We focused on stopping their drives, then we overhelped sometimes (and) we would just lose guys defensively,” Culbertson said. “Our defensive rotations weren’t very good, our closeouts weren’t very good, we just didn’t come ready to play on the defensive side of the ball.”

El Dorado was led by L.J. Berkstresser’s 18 points and 14 from Jeremiah Kemboi.

“Jeremiah’s really starting to get to the paint, get on two feet,” Culbertson said. “We’ve been emphasizing jump-stops with him. When he does that, he’s a lot more efficient. He’s doing a good job of looking for his shot when he gets in there, too.”

Rose Hill boys 70, El Dorado 59

Rose Hill 10;24;14;22 – 70

El Dorado 15;12;9;19 – 55

Rose Hill: Smith 5(1) 3-4 16, Landrie 2(2) 3-3 13, Simoneau 2(2) 1-2 11, Koehler 2(2) 0-2 10, Earsery 0(2) 0-0 6, Brownlee 1 4-6 6, Nolan 1 2-3 4, Evans 1 0-0 2, McLaughlin 1 0-0 2. Totals 15(9) 13-20 70.

El Dorado: Berkstresser 5(2) 2-2 18, Kemboi 3(1) 5-8 14, Clausing 4 0-0 8, White 1(1) 3-3 8, Wittenberg 2 1-2 5, Sundgren 0(1) 0-0 3, Summers 1 1-1 3. Totals 16(7) 2-5 55.