Madison Southern senior Roger Rose drew the loudest cheers in the 11th Region Tournament this week when he swished a baseline jump shot with 59 seconds left in the Eagles' loss to Scott County in Eastern Kentucky University's McBrayer Arena on Monday night.
Rose heard more applause and hearty hollers when, with one second left, he hit a free throw that was the final point on Madison Southern's season and the final signature on his improbable high school career.
"Everybody went crazy," Rose said. "It was amazing."
Rose was being modest.
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He's the amazing part of this story.
When he was 6 years old, he was walking away from flag football practice in Berea when he collapsed after suffering a stroke. Seven days later, on his seventh birthday (Nov. 15), he came out of his coma.
But doctors weren't sure Roger would ever walk or talk again.
But they didn't realize Roger's resolve.
"I never gave up," he said. "I thank God every day. If not for God in my life, I wouldn't have been able to do what I've done."
Striving to play basketball was a driving force. The stroke left him unable to use his right arm, so he had to learn to use his left to do everything, including shooting a basketball.
When Roger was an eighth-grader, he made the Foley Middle School team, and to this day he thanks Coach Craig Jefferson for giving him the chance to play.
He fared so well that he made the freshman team at Madison Southern, and he's been part of the Eagles program ever since. "I didn't keep Roger out of sympathy," Coach Shane Buttry said. "I kept him because he's a competitor, because of his fire and love for the game, and because his hard work was a great example to our other players."
Rose said playing and scoring in the region tournament was "a big deal," but the highlight of his career came last season when he hit a three-pointer that enabled Madison Southern to reach the century mark in a 100-78 victory over Estill County. "My favorite moment in basketball," he said.
Rose's triumph over tragedy has been an inspiration to Buttry, who said it was an emotional scene in the locker room after Monday's loss. "We all realized just how hard Roger's had to work for everything, and what being on this team meant to him."
Rose said his teammates have been like brothers to him. "They'd do anything for me; I'd do anything for them."
A solid student, Rose plans on pursuing a career as a pediatrician. He knows it will be a challenge, but then he knows all about reaching lofty goals. "If I put my mind to it, I can do anything."
■ Friday night's 11th Region boys' semifinals in EKU's McBrayer Arena have a blockbuster final four: Lexington Catholic vs. Scott County, and Henry Clay vs. Madison Central.
This will be the sixth time in eight years Lexington Catholic and Scott County have met in the region. The Knights prevailed in the 2008 semifinals, 2009 finals and 2011 first round.
Scott County came out on top in the 2006 and 2007 semifinals. Henry Clay and Madison Central have played each other in the regular season for at least 20 years, but this will be their first regional meeting since 1989 when Madison Central upset the Blue Devils 71-69.
■ Russell County's Tyler Robertson had 30 points in a win over Greenwood in the first round of the 4th Region, increasing his career total to 2,055.
The 6-foot-2 senior guard, who's also a standout in baseball, had a season-high 36 points in the Lakers' upset of Madison Central on Feb. 9 in a game matching coaching brothers, Willie Feldhaus of Russell County and Allen Feldhaus Jr. of Madison Central. Robertson, who's played varsity since he was an eighth-grader, has averaged 21 points over the past two seasons.
The player of the year in the 4th Region is hoping to help Russell County reach the Sweet Sixteen for the second time in school history.
The Lakers made it in 1957, led by co-Mr. Basketball Ralph Richardson, who's believed to hold the school scoring record with more than 2,200 points.
■ Mercer County's boys pulled off the most surprising two-week turnaround.
After losing to defending 12th Region champ Southwestern 84-57 in a Valentine's Day massacre, Mercer County shocked the Warriors by beating them 56-54 in overtime in the 12th Region opener on Tuesday.
Blake Pennington's two free throws with 1 second left in regulation forced overtime. Pennington had 16 points and Will Hager had 17 to lead Brian Britt's Titans. They play Somerset in the semifinals Friday.
■ Collins' boys rallied from 21 points down in the fourth quarter and forced overtime before losing to South Oldham 85-82 in the 8th Region.
Buddy Johnson fueled Collins' furious comeback, which began when it trailed 60-39 and ended with Johnson's basket at the end of regulation that tied it 70-70.
Johnson finished with 34 points, including nine three-pointers. Matthew Haysley's 27 points paced South Oldham.
■ Covington Catholic's Nick Ruthsatz hit a half-court shot to beat Holmes 73-72 in the district finals.
CovCath Coach Scott Ruthsatz said his first reaction was, "We won!" Then he took pride in his son's heroics. Nick also hit a half-court shot last season to force a third overtime in what turned out to be a 100-94 four-overtime loss to Pendleton County.
CovCath, looking for its first region title since 2006, plays Newport in the 9th semifinals on Saturday.
■ Louisville Christian's China Dow hit 19 of 38 shots, including five threes, and had 51 points and 15 rebounds in a 77-67 loss to Sacred Heart in the 7th Region. Sacred Heart's DaiJia Ruffin had 35 points and 21 rebounds.
Dow, who finished her career with more than 2,000 points, has signed with Middle Tennessee.
■ Carlisle County got the 1,000th victory in the program's 55-year history in early February. The Comets went 22-10 this season, including an All "A" region title, to push their all-time record to 1,006-659.
■ Hopkinsville's boys take a state-best 21-game winning streak into the 2nd Region semifinals against Madisonville on Friday.
No. 9 Hopkinsville's only in-state losses have been to No. 1 Trinity, No. 2 Ballard and No. 4 Bullitt East. Its only other loss was to Union City, No. 3 in Class A in Tennessee.
■ Pulaski County's loss to Wayne County in the 12th Region on Monday brought an end to the careers of the top two scorers in the program's history.
Taylor Gover finished No. 1 with 2,195 points, along with 577 assists, 426 rebounds and 269 steals. Kody Johnson wound up as the Maroons' second all-time leading scorer with 2,071 points, along with 247 assists, 696 rebounds and 159 steals. "Two special players," said Pulaski County Coach Al Gover, Taylor's uncle.
■ Johnson Central junior Shane Hall, who has a scholarship offer from Tennessee, became the Golden Eagles' all-time leading rebounder in the district finals. Hall's 10 rebounds pushed him past the old record of 770 set by Mike Castle in 1970.
■ Kentucky's Mr. and Miss Basketball will be announced at an awards ceremony on March 29 at the Seelbach Hilton Hotel in Louisville.
The sponsoring Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation, along with honorary chairman Winston Bennett (Mr. Basketball in 1983) and his wife Peggy, will host the event. Previous Mr. and Miss Basketball winners are invited, along with fans. Call 1-800-232-5308 for ticket information.
■ Lexington Catholic alumnus Seth Beckham and Anderson County grad C.J. Penny made the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference all-league basketball team even though they didn't get on the court until January. Beckham, a freshman at Berea, averaged 17.7 points in 16 games. Penny, a freshman at Asbury, averaged 16.8 points in 16 games.
■ Jock Sutherland, who coached Lafayette to the Sweet Sixteen title in 1979 and later was part of Louisville's radio broadcast team, is celebrating his 85th birthday with a luncheon speaking engagement at Fasig-Tipton on March 6. Sutherland's talk will be "What I Have Learned About Life So Far." The buffet is $19.79. For information go to www.jocksutherland.com or call (859) 489-3877.
■ The Fellowship of Christian Athletes is hosting a "Breakfast of Champions" on March 9 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Broadway Christian Church in Lexington. The event is open to Sweet Sixteen participants and the general public. This fundraiser for the FCA will feature Pikeville Coach Kelly Wells and Elisha Justice (2010 Mr. Basketball). For ticket information contact FCA director Aaron Hogue(859-333-1335) or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Bart Flener (859-967-7270) or email@example.com.
■ Three more Lexington high school football players have made college choices: Lafayette wide receivers Darius Hughes (West Virginia State) and Nathan Oakley (Campbellsville), and Tates Creek linebacker/long snapper Cal Stewart (Georgetown).
■ Lexington Catholic grad Katie Breathitt, a senior at the University of Mississippi, has earned All-Academic honors from the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association for the second year in a row. Breathitt ran sixth in the NCAA South Regional last fall to become the first Ole Miss female runner to qualify for the national championships. Breathitt, who has a 3.4 GPA as an elementary education major, has also earned academic honors as a soccer player at Ole Miss.