Orioles b-ball flies into third straight 4A semifinal
AUGUSTA – After Augusta avenged a regular-season loss to Rose Hill to win its Class 4A quarterfinal Tuesday night, the Orioles discovered their semifinal opponent also looks familiar.
The Orioles (17-5), seeded second in the 4A bracket, will face Louisburg at 7 p.m. Thursday in Salina.
Augusta slipped past Louisburg, 42-40, to capture the Baldwin Tournament in January. Winning that game will likely put the Orioles into a title game against top-seeded Bishop Miege.
But getting to that Thursday game was no easy feat. The Rockets (15-6) came in riding a nine-game winning streak, including a 71-58 triumph over Augusta on Feb. 9 at Rose Hill.
The Orioles used their height advantage and getting three-pointers at key times, then hit 10 of 15 free throws in the fourth quarter for a 58-54 victory.
Afterward, Augusta coach Ryan Petty said it was one of those games characteristic of those found in March.
“We came out, we hit them with a run,” he said. “They came back, they hit us with a run, we hit them with a run … it was just back and forth, and back and forth.”
Petty singled out seniors Brendan Parker, Ryan Andrews, Jett Hand, Xander Roberts and Ely Wilcox, whom he said have been outstanding in the playoffs.
“These seniors, they’re 10-1 in the postseason,” he said. “They were in the championship game two years ago (when) they were sophomores. They played sparingly, so they were 4-1 in that postseason. And then last year (shortened by COVID-19), they went 3-0 (for) 7-1, and now we’re 3-0 in this postseason.
“We’ve just got a bunch of experienced dudes that they weren’t going to let us lose (Tuesday night).”
Having a luxury of 6-foot-5 forwards like Wilcox and sophomore Kaden McDaniel really paid off for Augusta against a smaller Rose Hill team. Wilcox is usually the banger in deep, but McDaniel can stroke it from the perimeter.
“Since we’ve turned the book to the postseason, he’s really been that ‘missing link’ for us as far as scoring the basketball,” Petty said of McDaniel. “He’s really been efficient, and we really struggled scoring until we got to the postseason.
“And he carried us against El Dorado (in Augusta’s sub-state opener). We had an off night, and he made five three-pointers. He really opened things up for us.”
Petty said Augusta’s shooting has improved of late.
“We’ve really been shooting the ball better,” he said. “I’m just incredibly proud of the guys.”
Rose Hill, though trailing by as many as 10 in the first quarter, caught fire in the second quarter and cut into the Orioles’ lead, trimming it to 27-23 at halftime. In the third quarter, the Rockets overtook Augusta and had a 38-31 lead with 3:13 left in the period.
But time and again, the Orioles battled back and a 6-0 run to end the quarter narrowed the deficit to a single point at the end of the quarter.
The teams traded the lead in the fourth quarter until Parker’s three-pointer from the top of the key with 3:24 left in the game gave Augusta the lead for good.
Rose Hill got quick buckets – two on coast-to-coast lay-ins by Adriel Smith – but Augusta managed to keep the lead at three and made seven of eight free throws in the final minute to keep the Rockets from overtaking them.
Petty said he just preached calmness to his team when Rose Hill made its third-quarter run.
“I told them, ‘Guys, we’ve been here all year long. We don’t need to panic; we just need to continue to play basketball, continue to play, and things will work out.
“We kept running offense, and we made shots, and we just made a couple more plays than they did to get the victory.”
Smith, who had 29 points in the earlier game, had to work to get his 19 on Tuesday, including the two late coast-to-coast lay-ins. Junior Xander Landrie had 17, including four three-pointers.
Rose Hill coach Josh Shirley said Augusta’s shooting was a real key.
“That was the difference was them coming out and shooting the ball extremely well,” he said. “They shot well against Andale (in the sub-state final), so we knew they could.”
Shirley also noted the Orioles’ very vocal crowd support and the fact that this year’s schedule forced the Rockets into a road opener.
“That was our first road game of the season,” he said. “We told our kids it’s so tough to play your first round of state on the road. That almost never happens with neutral-site games and all that. They fed off their crowd early, and that really helped them. It was a game of runs, and they had the last run.”
Augusta boys 58, Rose Hill boys 54
Rose Hill 10;13;15;16 – 54
Augusta 13;14;10;21 – 58
ROSE HILL – Smith 8(1) 0-2 19, Landrie 2(4) 1-2 17, Koehler 4 2-3 10, Nolan 3 2-3 8, . Totals 17(5) 5-10 51.
AUGUSTA – McDaniel 7(1) 2-5 19, Parker 1(3) 2-2 13, Roberts 2(2) 3-5 13, Andrews 0 5-8 5, Hand 0 (1) 0-0 3, Wilcox 1 1-3 3, Schmidt 1 0-0 2. Totals 12(7) 13-23 58.