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Nick Yan and the Woodbury boys basketball team beat No. 6-ranked Cretin-Derham Hall 83-82 in St. Paul on Friday, Feb. 14. Yan hit the game-winning basket. (Submitted photo by Dan Runze)

Woodburyboys basketball: Royals stun No. 6 Cretin-Derham Hall

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Woodburyboys basketball: Royals stun No. 6 Cretin-Derham Hall
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It’s not often that Scott Swansson treats a win like a loss.

Yet the Woodbury basketball coach said that’s exactly what he did after his Royals fended off a second-half surge from Forest Lake — a conference bottom dweller — to escape with a 79-74 win.


“I told them (after the game) that we’ll probably win one section game playing like that,” the coach said.

The players apparently got the message.

Three days later, Woodbury traveled to St. Paul, where the Royals upset No. 6-ranked Cretin-Derham Hall.

Swansson said the win represented a key momentum builder as the team now eyes Section 4AAAA playoffs. Woodbury watched its hopes for second Suburban East Conference title in three season slip away in its loss against East Ridge, so Swansson said it’s vital that his players realize that there’s still more to accomplish.

“Once you can’t make one of your goals, you set your sights on other goals,” he said.

In the Cretin-Derham Hall game, Woodbury grabbed a commanding 46-28 first-half lead – though Swansson knew at the break that the game was far from over.

He said he recalled telling his assistant coaches on the way to the locker rooms at halftime that “this thing’s going to go down the wire.

“And it did,” he said.

Sure enough, Woodbury watched its 18-point lead wither away to a teeter-totter game over the last seven minutes of the second half.

Down 82-80 with about 12 seconds left in regulation, Swansson called a timeout and drew up an in-bound play that called for standout guard Matt Ambriz to serve as a decoy in hopes of freeing up another shooter.

The Royals’ first attempt resulted in a blocked shot that went out of bounds, so they went back to the well.

With nine seconds left, senior forward Isaiah Codden in-bounded the ball to fellow senior Nick Yan, who drilled the game-winning 3-pointer.

The Raiders still had enough time to run one last play, but “we kind of held on for dear life,” Swansson said, and came away with the win that improved Woodbury’s record to 16-8 (12-4 SEC).

Ambriz, who finished with 29 points in the game, was an impeccable 16-for-16 from the free throw line in the second half. Codden scored 18 for the Royals, while senior center Ben Rizzardi added 13 for Woodbury. Yan finished with 12 points.

The Royals held standout Cretin-Derham Hall players Sam Neumann and Joe Rosga to a combined 10 points.

“I thought we really played great defense in the first half,” Swansson said.

This week represents the final week of regular season action for Woodbury.

The Royals started off the week with a home game against Roseville (13-11; 10-6 SEC) after the Bulletin went to press and play the season finale on the road Friday against White Bear Lake (11-13; 7-9 SEC).

A win over Roseville – which beat Woodbury earlier in the season – will likely earn the Royals one of the top two seeds in the Section 4AAAA tournament.

Other top teams look to be Mounds View (11-5 SEC), a team that Woodbury split with during the regular season, Roseville and Tartan (18-5; 11-4 Classic Suburban).

Section seeding will be announced on Saturday.

-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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