Rose Hill boys win AVCTL-IV with win over Collegiate

Lionel Tipton
Rose Hill's Adriel Smith (5) attempts a free throw for the Rockets earlier this season.

ROSE HILL – When the fourth quarter started Thursday night, Rose Hill junior guard Adriel Smith found himself in a most uncharacteristic spot – on the Rockets’ bench.

As the third quarter wore down, Smith collected his third and fourth fouls in a span of 20 seconds. 

“It frustrated me a little bit,” he said. 

However, he returned just 1:14 into the final period and avoided fouling out, scoring six fourth-quarter points in Rose Hill’s 57-54 victory over Collegiate. 

“Kobe Koehler fouled out, Xander Landrie had four, and Adriel had four, so we were nervous there for a little bit,” Rose Hill coach Josh Shirley said. 

The triumph clinched the AVCTL Division IV regular-season title for the Rockets, who went 7-0 in the month of February. They are the No. 2 seed in the Clearwater sub-state and will face third-seeded Wellington on Tuesday night. Lest they take the Crusaders too lightly, Wellington took Collegiate to double overtime on Tuesday before falling, 58-52.

Rose Hill beat Wellington in the teams’ only regular-season meeting, at Wellington. Rose Hill took an early 27-14 lead but had to survive a Crusaders comeback for a 70-66 victory. 

“Wellington has some shooters, some playmakers that are going to present some challenges,” Shirley said. “It’s really going to take everything we have.”

Smith said, “They’re not a team to sleep on.”

Should the Rockets win that game, they will likely face top-seeded Mulvane on Friday night for the sub-state title. The regular-season return match with Wellington was canceled.

But first things first. Shirley said he knows the Rockets can’t afford to look ahead.

“You’re just as likely to get knocked off in the first round as you are in the third round,” he said.

Thursday night, Collegiate (13-5) started fast, leading by as many as eight points in the first quarter and were ahead 16-10 at the end of the period. But in the second quarter, the Rockets’ offense came alive behind seven points from senior point guard Spencer Nolan, five from Kellan Simoneau and four from Smith for a 32-30 halftime advantage.

After an even third quarter, 10-10, Rose Hill (13-5) managed to keep the Spartans at bay, hitting nine of 11 in the final period.

Smith paced Rose Hill with six in the final quarter and finished with 17 points. In the earlier meeting, Smith had 26 and Nolan 17 in a 68-59 triumph. Nolan went 8-of-10 from the free-throw line and had 14 points. Fellow senior Kobe Koehler scored 12 before fouling out in the game’s final minute.

“We knew we were going to have a dogfight,” Nolan said. “We barely beat them last time, and when you go against Collegiate, they’re full-court pressing the entire game. They’re going to foul you. They’re going to be tough. You’ve just got to knock down shots.”

Nolan said he thought free throws would be crucial in this game. So, he said he practiced shooting 25 free throws after every practice.

“I know I’m going to go to the line at least 10 times,” he said – his exact number of attempts Thursday night.

Rose Hill’s two-point lead and the game’s outcome was very much in danger in the final seconds. Spartans senior Charlie Goree was fouled with 4.5 seconds left by Koehler, who fouled out on the play.

Goree, however, missed the first free throw. Collegiate coach Mitch Fiegel called timeout, ostensibly to tell Goree to intentionally miss the second in hopes of securing a rebound. He complied, but the 5-10 Nolan sneaked in for the rebound and was fouled by 6-6 Grant Ramsey under the basket with 2.5 seconds left. 

Nolan hit the first free throw but unintentionally missed the second. 

“I wanted to knock down both so my coach wouldn’t have a heart attack, but I knocked down one, and no matter what we were at least going to overtime,” Nolan said.

Collegiate rebounded, and a desperation shot at a game-tying three-pointer hit the back iron and bounced away. 

“It was terrifying for me,” Shirley said. “It was right on line.”

“A big-time shot,” Nolan said. “My heart dropped a little bit.”

Finally, he could breathe. His nightmare night of heart-stopping events was finally over, and he could celebrate the division title.

“It’s the first one at Rose Hill since 2010,” Shirley said afterward. “Goal #1 on the way of postseason is trying to get that first league championship out of the way.

“It’s phenomenal. We haven’t done it since 2010, a long, long drought there. Happy to get off that schneid and get that (title) against a really, really good Collegiate team.”

Shirley said this game lived up to massive expectations.

“You know when you get Collegiate, you get coach Fiegel, you get all of them, it’s going to be a battle,” Shirley said. “(Fiegel’s) a Hall of Fame coach for a reason. Their kids played hard; they played with emotion.”

The Rockets’ reaction to Smith’s foul trouble shows the character of the other players, Shirley said.

“That’s a testament to somebody like Spencer and to those other guards and other guys,” he said. “It’s ‘next man up,’ and they know that Adriel does a lot for the team, but we trust everyone who puts on a uniform for us.

“We trust that they’re going to go in and do what needs to be done, and I feel like everybody contributed who got into the game.”

Nolan said he wasn’t surprised that his free-throw performance would be critical to getting the sweep of Collegiate.

Shirley said he thinks Nolan thrives on pressure.

“His first varsity game as a freshman was against Collegiate, and we kind of just threw him to the wolves,” Shirley said. “He’s not intimidated by the pressure; he’s not intimidated by the press.”

Collegiate girls 26, Rose Hill 24: The Rockets (10-8) suffered through a cold-shooting night and fell to the Spartans (8-10). Rose Hill will open sub-state play as the No. 3 seed Wednesday at second-seeded Wellington (11-6).

Collegiate girls 26, Rose Hill 24

Collegiate 10;5;6;5 – 26

Rose Hill  6;3;9;6 – 24

COLLEGIATE – Munds 1(2) 3-3 11, Mairs 4 0-0 8, Eloffson 0(1) 1-2 4, Allen 1 0-0 2, Henry 0 1-2 2. Totals 6(3) 5-9 26.

ROSE HILL – Thrush 6 1-4 13, Rose 3 0-0 6, Hackney 1 0-0 2, Goetz 1 0-0 2, Raupe 0 1-2 1. Totals 11 2-6 24.

Rose Hill boys 57, Collegiate 54

Collegiate 16;14;10;14 – 54

Rose Hill 10;22;10;15 – 57

COLLEGIATE – Goree 6(1) 2-4 17, Beaubrun 3(1) 2-4 11, Duarte 4(1) 0-0 11, Ramsey 4 1-2 9, W. Fair 1 0-0 2, Kates 1 0-0 2, Clay 0 2-2 2. Totals 19(3) 7-12 54.

ROSE HILL – Smith 5 7-9 17, Nolan 3 8-10 14, Koehler 4 4-7 12, Simoneau 1(1) 2-2 7, Earsley 1(1) 0-0 5, Landrie 1 0-0 2. Totals 11 2-6 24.