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Woodbury boys basketball: Royals upset No. 8 Cretin

Matt Ambriz, a senior guard for Woodbury, scored 25 points against the Raiders and 32 points earlier in the week against Forest Lake. (Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker) 1 / 2
Woodbury senior Ben Rizzardi (center) finished with 22 points for the Royals against Cretin-Derham Hall. (Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker)2 / 2

The Royals saw success, if not consistency, in a week that delivered two Suburban East Conference victories.

Woodbury started the week by earning a comfortable win over Forest Lake and closed it out by beating No. 8-ranked Cretin-Derham Hall.

Yet in the neither of the two games did the Royals put together two halves that resembled one another.

Perhaps most illustrative was the Jan. 7 road game against Forest Lake. Woodbury built a stunning 31-point halftime lead, allowing the Rangers to score just 14 points. It was one of the lowest scoring totals Woodbury head coach Scott Swansson remembers his teams allowing.

Just the opposite occurred in the second half.

The Royals allowed Forest Lake to score 58 points in the half. Swansson said that might have been the most a Woodbury teams had ever allowed.

The explanation?

“We just quit playing hard,” Swansson said of the second-half meltdown.

Still, the Royals pulled out the 87-72 win over the Rangers, with senior guard Matt Ambriz leading the way. He scored 32 points, while senior center Ben Rizzardi added 18 points for the Royals.

The first half of the Royals’ Jan. 10 home game against Cretin-Derham Hall started out slow for Woodbury. The Raiders pounded the ball up the court, utilizing its athleticism, outside shooters and defense.

Still, Woodbury hung with the Raiders, but trailed 35-32 at the break.

A stronger Woodbury team emerged in the second half. The Royals, led by Ambriz (25 points) and Rizzardi (22 points) employed a stingier defense that caused fewer Cretin shots to fall and more transition buckets for Woodbury.

“They had a hard time handling our 1-2-1 defense,” Swansson said.

The Royals also locked down standout guard Sam Neumann in the second half, holding him to 18 points on the night.

Swansson said Friday’s win could prove to be pivotal for Woodbury, who now sits within striking distance of the conference lead. The Royals (9-5, 5-2 SEC) trail unbeaten Roseville and East Ridge, as well as Cretin (6-1) in the conference standings.

“It’s the kind of win that gives you some confidence and makes you think that if you do some things right and play the way you’re supposed to play, we can beat anybody,” Swansson said. “It kind of put us back in the hunt.”

The win also represented an important rebound the team after losing a home contest Jan. 3 to cross-town rival East Ridge.

Swansson said it appeared his players got the message after the East Ridge loss.

“It takes hard work,” he said.

That will have to be an ongoing effort if continued success is in the cards.

The Royals played a road game Tuesday – after the Bulletin went to press – against No. 8-ranked Roseville.

“They’re really big,” Swansson said of Roseville (8-5; 6-0 SEC).

Woodbury closes out the week Friday with a home game against White Bear Lake (4-8; 2-4 SEC).

-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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