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Woodbury senior Matt Ambriz finished the regular season averaging a conference-best 26.5 points per game. Through the regular season, Ambriz finished as the third leading scorer among Minnesota’s Class 4A players. (Submitted photo by Dan Runze)

The shotmaker: Dead-eye Ambriz among state’s top prep players

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The shotmaker: Dead-eye Ambriz among state’s top prep players
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After watching players come and go for the past 35 years of his coaching career, it takes something special to impress Woodbury’s Scott Swansson.

Matt Ambriz has accomplished that feat.

“He’s one of the best shooters I’ve ever had,” Swansson said of the senior shooting guard.

Ambriz finished the regular season with an eye-popping 26.5 points per game. That average boosted his career totals to 15.4 PPG since he began playing varsity as a sophomore.

Since the beginning of the season, Ambriz has been one of the state’s top scorers – and he never let up.

Through the regular season, Ambriz finished as the third leading scorer among Class 4A players. Just in front of him is Duke signee Tyus Jones, the Apple Valley star roundly regarded as the best player to come from Minnesota in more than a decade.

Ambriz recorded his 1,000th point earlier this month against rival East Ridge and was later selected to play in the state’s all-star game.

Swansson said the fact that he has emerged as one of Minnesota’s top prep players didn’t happen by accident. Ambriz puts in long hours shooting at a private gym when he’s not practicing at WHS, the coach said. During the summers, he competes with an AAU team.

The hard work is paying off, Swansson said.

“He understands that that’s a big part of the game,” he said.

Through the years, Ambriz has gotten physically stronger and emerged as a team leader, Swansson said.

“He’s a competitive kid,” the coach said. “He wants to win.”

And he is.

After losing three Class of 2013 seniors averaging more than 10 PPG apiece, Ambriz has stepped up and led Woodbury to a 17-8 (14-4 Suburban East Conference) record this season. The Royals closed out the season ranked No. 10 in Class 4A and earned a No. 1 seed in the Section 4-4A tournament.

Meanwhile, Ambriz’s stats continue to pile up.

Through the regular season, his 1,060 total points place him seventh on the all-time WHS scoring list.

Yet it’s another statistic that has been catching even more eyes.

Ambriz has a career free-throw shooting percentage of 86.9 percent. With only this year’s postseason remaining, he looks to demolish the all-time mark set by former WHS standout Bruce Kaupa, whose 78.5 pace is the current leader. In fact, Ambriz is just 13 points shy of setting the all-time Royals’ mark for free throws made.

Swansson said it’s another element of Ambriz’s game that has helped him get to the free throw line so often.

“If you guard him tight, he can get past you,” he said.

Ambriz, who is looking to return from an ankle injury that sidelined him in the regular season finale, and the Royals return to action on Wednesday in Round 1 of the Section 4A tournament.

-Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker
Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker
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