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Woodbury basketball: Royals climb to No. 5 in polls

Woodbury's Charlie Olson goes in for a layup against White Bear Lake.

The Royals claimed an outright lead in the Suburban East Conference last week behind two victories that also extended Woodbury's winning streak to 12 games.

Woodbury stomped White Bear Lake 95-57 on Feb. 12 before edging Forest Lake 81-78 in a Saturday, Feb. 14, road game.

The wins improved Woodbury to 18-3 (12-2 SEC) and came on the heel of the Royals climbing even higher into the Class 4A rankings - now positioned at No. 5 in the state.

Capturing the conference title would be nice, Woodbury head coach Scott Swansson said, but he said the real brass ring lies beyond that.

"Yeah, we have an eye on it," he said of the SEC throne. "But just getting to the state tournament is everyone's major goal."

Woodbury will have a chance this week to extend its conference lead with a big match-up Friday against Roseville, currently sitting one game back at 11-3 in the SEC. The Raiders were deadlocked with the Royals heading into last week, but lost a home game on Friday, Feb. 15, to Stillwater.

Roseville is now a half-game in front of 11-4 East Ridge. Those two teams collide on Tuesday at East Ridge before playing host to Woodbury.

"I'm sure they're going to do a little bit of soul searching to get on the track that they can be on," Swansson said. "I'm sure that they're going to be ready to play."

Woodbury started the week off with a convincing home win over White Bear Lake that saw the Royals build a 48-26 halftime lead.

Junior guard Matt Ambriz led all scorers with 21 points against the Bears. Senior guards Robert Claypool and Renard Suggs each chipped in 17 points, while sophomore forward ben Meyer added 10 for Woodbury.

Senior guard Diallo Powell left the game in the first half with a thigh injury. Swansson said he wasn't sure whether Powell would be able to go two days later against Forest Lake.

He was. Powell led Woodbury's scoring charge against the Rangers, pouring in 25 points.

"He felt a lot better (against Forest Lake)," Swansson deadpanned.

Forest Lake gave Woodbury fits throughout the game, led by Noah Davis's 31 points.

"He couldn't miss," Swansson said of the senior center for Forest Lake.

The Rangers led by six with about 1:30 left in regulation until Mario Franco, a senior forward for the Royals, drained a clutch 3-pointer on his way to a 19-point night. Woodbury moved ahead after key steals and free throws from Suggs, who finished with 16 points.

"They played very well," Swansson said of Forest Lake. "We were very lucky."

The Royals began this week's action with a home game against Hastings that was played after the Bulletin went to press.

Woodbury travels Friday to Roseville, where the game tips off at 7:15 p.m.

"It's going to be big," Swansson said.

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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