It took the Woodbury Royals a while to figure things out. They trailed 17-9 early and 30-21 at the half.
But when the Royals figured out how to roll, they rocked it.
Woodbury outscored host Apple Valley 37-25 in the second half to take a come-from-behind 58-55 victory over the Eagles Friday, Dec. 8.
It was Woodbury's first win of the young season and gave looks of both how young the Royals are and how much potential there is on this team. The Royals have just two seniors on the roster, both starters, and add a junior and two sophomores to the starting lineup.
And the early going was rough. The Woodbury offense looked out of synch and the defense gave up too many Apple Valley drives to the basket. It didn't help matters that junior forward Solape Amusan picked up two fouls in the first minute of play and watched the rest of the half from the bench.
But the second half was a completely different story.
"We defensively locked them down," said Woodbury coach Megan Kirchenwitz. "We scored 37 points in the second half and they just showed what we talked about, the word grit, and they showed the grit. We matched up with them and they just played with a lot of intensity on defense and did tremendous on two great post players."
Woodbury star senior guard Rachel Hakes led all scorers with 25 points. Lexy Paulson added 11 while Lizzy Dodge and Kassidy Mackie had eight each.
"The second half we went into our man (defense) and we pressured them a lot more," said Hakes. "And I think we just had the mentality that we had to do whatever was needed to win and we just got really gritty."
Woodbury caught and passed Apple Valley with outside shooting and big drives to the basket, then won it with clutch free throw shooting down the stretch.
"We used our athleticism to attack in transition," said Kirchenwitz.
"I think our defense turned into offense," agreed Hakes. "We pushed the ball a lot better. I think everything was better in the second half."
Woodbury tied the game at 42-all and then again at 47-all with 4:50 to play. The Royals went up for good on a 3-pointer by Paulson with 3:11 remaining.
The Royals made a remarkable 24 of 27 free throws in the game including 7 of 8 at the line in the last minute to win it.
"We worked our hinnies off to get to the line," said Kirchenwitz. "Rachel Hakes had 17 free throws on her own."
"The last game we didn't really do very well on our free throws," said Dodge. "So this whole week at practice we've been shooting 10 free throws after every water break."
Work harder and be better.
Hakes drained 6 of 7 at the line in the final 55 seconds and Mackie capped it by making 2 of 2 with 7.9 seconds left for a 58-55 lead. Apple Valley got off a final desperation shot but it wasn't close to hitting the net.
Woodbury evened its record at 1-1.
Apple Valley fell to 0-3.
"I think it's going to bring practice up because it's been kind of dead and I think everybody is going to get more excited and work harder and then we're just going to be better," said Dodge.
The Royals continue their early-season road saga this week with a Suburban East Conference opener at Stillwater (3-3) Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m.