Big 4th powers Rose Hill by Augusta

Lionel Tipton

ROSE HILL – Final exams are still weeks away, but this week’s Rose Hill schedule resembled a couple of tough tests against two highly ranked Class 4A teams.

The Rockets passed the first test Tuesday night, once again using the second half to put everything together for a 71-58 victory over visiting fourth-ranked Augusta.

Having passed that challenge, the Rockets (8-6) can now turn their attention to Friday’s opponent, on the road at No. 2-ranked Mulvane.

“It’s kind of a ‘contender-pretender’-type week,” Rose Hill coach Josh Shirley said. “Our slate this week is tough. We knew it was going to be a tough week. 

“We’re playing better than we did earlier in the year, but you kind of like these ‘measuring-stick’ games to see where you’re at.”

When the game began, the Orioles (10-4) were getting many easy baskets inside and led 18-14 after the first quarter and 26-25 at halftime. Augusta’s 6-foot-5 senior post, Ely Wilcox, scored 11 first-quarter points and had 15 at the break. Wilcox and 6-5 sophomore Kaden McDaniel scored all of Augusta’s points in the first quarter.

Additionally, Augusta clamped down on Rose Hill junior guard Adriel Smith, who had just nine points at halftime. But Smith sparked a Rockets resurgence in the second half, scoring 12 points in the third quarter, 10 more in the fourth period and finished with 31.

“I was ready to go (Tuesday night),” Smith said, “from the time I woke up, I was ready to go and play.

“I think that’s been our thing all year, that we’re a second-half team. The first half, we always come out flat, in the second half we really try to turn it on.”

He accomplished this in a variety of ways, mostly using his speed to zip past Augusta defenders and contorting his body to get to the hoop and lay the ball in. But he also hit a three-pointer and four of six free throws.

“We made a few minor adjustments on how we’re trying to guard the high post, low post in our zone,” Shirley said. “We knew coming in (about) the Wilcox kid and how dominant he is in the post. We weren’t going to be able to man him like we could in previous games. Our big thing was we had to quit giving Wilcox 2-foot shots, and we adjusted and did that a little bit.”

Defensive breakdowns, especially on Smith, hurt Augusta, coach Ryan Petty said. 

“He’s a really good player, but we didn’t do a good job guarding him,” Petty said. “We told the guys we’ve got to guard him, and we had a plan, but we couldn’t guard him. It’s that simple.”

Petty lamented not being able to capitalize on the Orioles’ quick start.

“I thought we wasted one of our better offensive games,” he said. “They came out and played 2-3 zone. I thought we were pretty effective, zone offense-wise. We got good looks; we could have knocked a couple more shots down, but we scored the ball well enough to win that.

“If you can’t stop them, you’re going to be in for a long night, and that’s what we were in for.”

The Rose Hill crowd had an anxious moment with 4:29 left in the third quarter, when Smith went in for a layup and fell hard to the floor. He was helped off the court, but he was back in the game 22 seconds later.

“I hit my face real hard on the ground,” he said. “I thought I was missing some teeth for a second, but you know I got right back up. I knew I couldn’t be out long.”

The game largely mirrored Smith’s performance at home against Andale on Jan.12. In that game, the Rockets trailed 20-10 after one quarter, with Smith held to just three points. But he scored nine in the second quarter and 20 in the second half to finish with 32 in a 74-58 triumph.

“I feel like this game was one where I had to come out and make a statement, that we are a force to be reckoned with,” Smith said. 

Rose Hill edged ahead in the third quarter on Smith’s steal and lay-in in the opening seconds, and junior Xander Landrie hit one of his three three-pointers for a 30-26 lead. But Wilcox hit back-to-back baskets inside to tie the score 30-30. Orioles senior Brendan Parker hit a three-pointer from the right side, then sank one of two free throws with 5:28 left in the period for a 34-32 lead. 

Smith then went to work, hitting back-to-back acrobatic layups to give Rose Hill the lead for good,   38-34, with 4:29 left. 

“We felt like we were stagnant on offense a little bit in the first half,” Shirley said, “We told them drive and the lanes will open up, if we move a little bit first.

“We want to run. If we get a rebound, we’ve got to run and push, because we’ve got a lot of guards.”

Augusta stayed within striking distance, but senior guard Spencer Nolan drove to the basket twice in two minutes for a 58-51 lead with about 3½ minutes left in the game, and Rose Hill steadily pulled away, leading by as many as 15 down the stretch.

“Spencer was a real big help, getting to the free-throw line, getting into the paint for us,” Smith said. 

The second half of “finals week” concludes Friday at Mulvane.  Meanwhile, Augusta returns home to face Winfield.

“We want to get that (Mulvane) game back,” Smith said (Mulvane took a 63-58 decision at Rose Hill on Dec. 15). “We’re going to prepare (Wednesday), Thursday and be ready to go Friday.”

Shirley said of Mulvane: “We’re rivals. It doesn’t matter who’s up, who’s down. That game is always intense, it’s always going to be close. 

“It’s going to be a battle, and we’ve just got to prepare for that battle.”

Afterward, he said there were no lingering effects from the fall. But even if there were, it would not be enough to keep him out of Friday’s showdown.

“You can’t take me out of that game,” he said. “I’ve got to be ready to play that game.”

Rose Hill boys 71, Augusta 58

Augusta 18;8;16;16 – 58

Rose Hill  14;11;22;24 – 71

Augusta: Wilcox 8(1) 2-4 21, McDaniel 6(2) 0-0 18, Parker 1(3) 1-2 12, Andrews 2 0-1 4, Roberts 1 1-2 3. Totals 18 (6) 4-9 58.

Rose Hill: Smith 12 (1) 4-6 31, Landrie 0 (3) 2-2 11, Simoneau 4 0-0 8, Nolan 3 2-3 8, Koehler 3 0-0 6, Earsery 1(1) 0-0 5, Brownlee 1 0-0 2. Totals 24 (5) 8-11 71.