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Woodbury boys basketball: Royals look to regain footing

Woodbury senior Charlie Olson attempts to maneuver around the Raptors’ Xavier Cole on Friday. (Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker)

The Royals closed out 2013 in a skid, but hoped to shake out of the tailspin once the new year started.

Another team from Woodbury prevented any such turnaround.

The Royals opened play in the 2014 calendar year with a home loss on Friday to crosstown rival East Ridge. The loss dropped Woodbury to 7-5 overall and 3-2 in the Suburban East Conference.

“We’ve been in a little slump right now,” Woodbury head coach Scott Swansson said. “We’ve got to get over the hump. We’ve got to find ways to win – not just play it close.”

The Royals played it close against East Ridge, but not until late in the game.

Down 30-19 at the half, Woodbury (7-5; 3-2 SEC) made momentary second-half surges to twice close the gap to within four points, but the Raptors’ stingy defense and accuracy from the free-throw line never allowed the Royals to draw closer.

“We’re not going to win games shooting 2-for-20 from the 3-point line,” Swansson said.

Standout senior guard Matt Ambriz had an uncharacteristically cold shooting night, going 5-for-23 from the field, finishing with 16 points for Woodbury.

“He’s a way better shooter than that,” Swansson said of Ambriz, one of Minnesota’s top scorers in Class 4A. “They just weren’t falling.”

Fellow senior Isaiah Codden was Woodbury’s leading scorer with 18 points.

East Ridge junior guard Sid Tomes led all players with 21 points, while senior guard Jake Knupp recorded 17 points for the Raptors. Sophomore forward Seth Green came off the bench to score 15 points for East Ridge. The win left the Raptors (10-2; 5-0 SEC) with an unblemished record in the SEC and was the team’s 9th straight victory.

“They’re well-coached; they did a nice job,” Swansson said of East Ridge, which was without senior forward Brian Ishola, who sat out with an injury.

The loss followed a bit of rocky tournament play over the winter break in Rochester at the Rotary-US Bank Holiday Classic.

Woodbury began on a high note Dec. 26, dominating Rochester Century 77-57. Ambriz led Woodbury’s scoring attack with 25 points in the game, while fellow senior Ben Rizzardi chipped in 14 for the Royals.

The Royals were paired up in the semifinals with Osseo (No. 6, 4A) in a game that turned some heads. Woodbury battled to a tie in regulation and had a late lead in the overtime frame.

Up by one point with 40 seconds to go, Woodbury turned over the ball, which Osseo used to grab back the lead. Osseo managed to pack away its free throws down the stretch, dooming Woodbury’s upset hopes in the 77-71 win.

“It was a good game,” Swansson said.

Ambriz led Woodbury in scoring with 30 points against Osseo, while Codden added 20 points.

Woodbury closed out the tournament with a 97-86 loss to a sharp-shooting Lakeville North team. The Panthers fired off an astounding 19 3-pointers in the game – and at a 79 percent clip.

“We could have done a better job covering them,” Swansson said of the game in which Ambriz scored 36 points and senior guard Nick Yan accounted for 16 points.

The Royals went on the road this week against Forest Lake in a game played after the Bulletin went to press.

Woodbury returns home on Friday, where Cretin-Derham Hall will be looking to avenge recent losses to Rosemount and Bettendorf, Iowa.

“I’m sure they’re going to regroup and get after it,” Swansson said.

-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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