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Woodbury boys basketball: Royals routed in rematch against Hopkins

Senior guard Matt Ambriz and coach Scott Swansson leave the court at halftime Saturday in Woodbury’s loss to Hopkins at Brooklyn Center High School. (Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker)1 / 2
Woodbury senior guard Charlie Olson drives the lane Saturday against Hopkins. The Royals lost 96-61 during the game, played at the Super 60 Showcase event held at Brooklyn Center High School. (Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker)2 / 2

The last time Woodbury squared off against Hopkins, the game wasn’t decided until the end of a thrilling overtime session.

There was no such drama when the two teams met Saturday at the Super 60 Showcase event for their first rematch since the 2012 state tournament.

Hopkins, ranked No. 2 in Class 4A, jumped out a 13-0 lead over Woodbury and never looked back. Leading by as many as 42 points over Woodbury, the Hopkins Royals went on to win 96-61 in an impressive display of offensive power and aggressive defense.

Woodbury coach Scott Swansson said a post-game chat with Hopkins coach Ken Novak left both coaches in agreement that Hopkins couldn’t have played much better – and vice versa for Woodbury.

“That sounds about right,” Swansson said. “We just got a butt-kicking.”

While Hopkins forced turnover after turnover, converted their layups and knocked down open shots, Woodbury struggled to find a groove from the beginning and was unable to establish command in the game.

“We got off to a bad start, panicked a little bit and things went from bad to worse,” Swansson said.

And maybe that’s just what this year’s team needed, the coach said.

He called the game instructive, saying it showed his players how much more work the Royals (12-7, 8-3 Suburban East Conference) will need to put in if they’re going to close in on the SEC title, which is still in reach.

“That was a great wake-up call for us,” Swansson said. “We want to play at that level, we have to do things better.”

The odds didn’t begin in Woodbury’s favor.

While Hopkins arrived with fresh legs after last playing on Jan. 21, Woodbury was coming off an overtime road game played just the night before.

The Royals pulled away from Stillwater in overtime to earn a 70-64 win on Friday, Jan. 24.

Woodbury senior forward Isaiah Codden led the Royals with 20 points, while fellow senior Matt Ambriz chipped in 18. Ben Rizzardi, Woodbury’s senior center, added 17 against Stillwater.

Swansson said the Ponies forced Woodbury to play their style of ball – a slower offense predicated on ball movement that cultivates open shots for Stillwater’s sharpshooters.

They delivered, by way of junior guard Connor Gamble. He scored 30 points on the night, including several 3-pointers.

“He wouldn’t miss,” Swansson said.

The Stillwater victory followed a blowout win Jan. 21 over intradistrict rival Park. Ambriz scored 31 in the affair, with Codden and Rizzardi adding 14 points apiece.

This week began with what Swansson called a pivotal home match-up against Mounds View. The game, played on Tuesday after the Bulletin went to press, separated the two teams, which both brought a 8-3 conference record to the game.

The Royals fell earlier in the season on the road to Mounds View, who had rattled off 10 wins in a row, including a Friday, Jan. 24, win over No. 9-ranked East Ridge.

Woodbury closes out the week Friday with another home game against Hastings (4-14; 2-9 SEC).

After that, just five games remain on the regular season schedule – all of which Swansson said are potentially winnable for Woodbury.

“I just hope my guys decide that there are some good things at the end here that we can still strive for,” he 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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