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Boys' basketball: East Ridge's defense shuts down Royals

East Ridge guard TJ Kelly's defense on Woodbury star Michael Jones was a major factor in the Raptors' 69-44 win at Woodbury Tuesday. Photos by John Molene / Sports Writer 1 / 3
Woodbury's Ryan Christensen (34) is tied up by East Ridge's Zach Zebrowski (5) as he tries to go to the basket in the first half Tuesday. 2 / 3
Woodbury's David Alston (32) goes to the basket in the first half against the defense of East Ridge's Kendall Brown (10). 3 / 3

The first two these two archrivals played this season – a 69-57 Woodbury win at East Ridge back on Jan. 10 – a more experienced Woodbury team took advantage of a still-jelling East Ridge squad.

Tuesday night the roles were reversed in a surprisingly lopsided 69-44 East Ridge win in a Suburban East Conference boys basketball game at Woodbury.

East Ridge took control from the start, busting out to a 20-12 lead with four minutes to play and never looked back. The Raptors led 26-15 at the half, 38-19 with 12:24to play and 50-34 with four and a half minutes left.

“The game was over three or four minutes into the game,” said Woodbury coach Kent Getzlaff. “They’ve got a bunch of really, really good coaches that have a ton of experience and they came up with a really good plan and they got their kids to do a much better job with the plan than we did. We weren’t able to answer it and we’ve got to find a way to come back and respond.”

Woodbury never got in synch offensively, in large part to a swarming, tenacious defensive-effort by the Raptors. Led by senior guard TJ Kelly, the Raptors held Woodbury star Michael Jones to just 10 points in the game. Jones came into the contest averaging nearly 27 points a game and had burned the Raptors for 33 points in the first meeting this season.

“They played outstanding defense on him,” Getzlaff said of the Raptors.

“When it comes to someone like Michael Jones, who is one of the best players in the state, you can’t really take a play off,” said Kelly. “You just have to keep working and stay in a stance the whole game. Because even when he relaxing, he’s really just setting you up for another thing.

“I think what we did well, most importantly, was communication,” Kelly added. “Even when you saw I got switched onto someone else you saw that everyone else was communicating and talking and moving their feet and that’s the biggest part of our defense is when we’re communicating like we can all switch to someone else. It’s not a big deal to us. We just working and grind out those defensive possessions.”

While the Raptors were doing a defensive-number on the Royals in the second half, East Ridge star Courtney Brown Jr. took over offensively. Brown scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half, the majority on a series of rim-rattling dunks midway through the period.

“I was worried about him breaking the rim down over here,” said East Ridge head coach Bryce Tesdahl. “Credit our guys at getting him the ball and Courtney’s really good at getting to the rim and going to the rim and finishing at the rim.”

Brown was spectacular, but East Ridge sophomore forward Ben Carlson was even more effective, leading the Raptors with 27 points.

“I think tonight we played a complete game,” said Carlson. “Our first game, we had a good first half but the second half they kind of got back into it. This game we had a complete game, that was the key for us tonight.”

 The loss snapped a four-game winning streak by the Royals. It’s now East Ridge who is surging. Tuesday’s win was the team’s fourth straight, including big victories over No. 4 Eden Prairie and a very good Wayzata team.

The Raptors have held their last four opponents to an average of 57 points.

“TJ Kelly was outstanding I thought guarding Jones,” said Tesdahl. “He really got into him and took the assignments really personally. He (Jones) ate us up last time. He gave us 33 and we knew we had to defend him and not allow him to get easy shots and make him work for his shots and I thought defensively we guarded the ball well and we were able to do some things differently this time around that I think led to little bit of success.”

Both coaches agreed that the Raptors are a much better team than they were a month ago.

“They obviously made a bunch of adjustments and they’ve got some personnel that they can kind of slide into some different roles,” said Getzlaff. “Length and athletic ability is probably going to give our group a little bit of trouble unless we have a really good shooting night and we didn’t make anything from three or inside the paint or from the free-throw line.”

East Ridge improved to 8-3 in the conference and 16-5 on the season.

Woodbury dropped to 10-2 in the SEC and 13-8 overall.

“Credit to our guys, they really bought in to what we’re doing in practice,” said Tesdahl. “I always tell them if you love the process it will love you back and the game and the results are starting to love us back a little bit.”

DJ Fleming led Woodbury offensively with 13 and Jones had 10, but none of the other Royals had more than six.

Woodbury came in with wins in four of the last five in the series, with the all-time record between the two schools now East Ridge 10, Woodbury 8.

The Royals play at White Bear Lake (12-9, 5-6) Friday.

East Ridge hosts Roseville (13-8, 7-5) Friday.