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Girls' Basketball: Woodbury clinches close win vs. Park

Woodbury's Rachel Hakes blocks a shot by Park's Taylor Johnson (11) during the second half of Tuesday's 46-44 win for the Royals. (Photo by John Molene)1 / 5
Park guard Riley Perryman (3) tries to get past the defense of Woodbury's Elizabeth Jordahl (11) in the second half Tuesday. (Photo by John Molene)2 / 5
Park's Delaney Young drives to the basket and scores two of her nine second-half points Tuesday against Woodbury. (Photo by John Molene)3 / 5
Woodbury's Cecile Kieger drives to the basket early in the first half. Kieger led all scorers with 19 points in Woodbury's 46-44 win Tuesday. (Photo by John Molene)4 / 5
Woodbury senior forward Ellie Kreibich goes up fro two points over the defense of Park's Hurji Burka and Riley Perryman in the first half. Kreibich scored 12 points for the Royals Tuesday. (Photo by John Molene)5 / 5

Tuesday's game didn't turn on a missed shot at the buzzer. It was the free throws.

The host Woodbury girls' basketball team made hay at the free-throw line all night long, sinking 17-of-23 attempts to slip past visiting Park for a 46-44 victory.

Park’s Taylor Johnson – who led the Wolfpack with 13 points – drove to the basket in the final seconds but couldn’t get a last-second shot to fall and Woodbury escaped with the win.

The victory by the Royals snapped a six-game losing streak to the Wolfpack dating back to the 2013-2014 season.

Both teams played standout defense and had their moments of offensive glory Tuesday, but it was Woodbury’s ability to get to the line and make free throws that made the difference.  Park was 9-for-12 at the free throw line, significantly less than the 17 free throws made by Woodbury.

“At this point in the season we’re shooting the ball very well from the free-throw line,” said Woodbury head coach Megan Kirchenwitz. “When we get 15 or more makes from the free-throw line it’s usually a W-town for us.”

Senior guard Cecile Kieger scored 19 points to lead the Royals and made 9-of-10 free throws, including seven in the final three minutes with the game on the line.

“I thought our team stayed really composed down the stretch because it was a close game,” said Kieger. “So just moving the ball around and staying together and not panicking and throwing the ball away.”

Kieger drained two free throws for a 41-40 Woodbury lead with 2:17 to play. She made two more with 34 seconds left to give the Royals a 45-42 lead, then added another free throw for a 46-44 Royals advantage with 8.4 seconds left.

Woodbury improved to 3-2 in the conference and 7-3 overall with the win.

"We need to continue to grow upward and onward, and use and learn what we did in this game to continue to execute better offensively,” said Kirchenwitz. “Anytime you hold a team to below 50, I think that’s a great defensive effort in our conference. I’m proud of them for that. They had great composure toward the end. We just said it’s not going to get any easier.”

Park dropped to 2-3 in the league and 6-7 on the season.

“I thought we were more aggressive on offense than Park,” said Woodbury forward Ellie Kreibich, who scored a dozen points for the Royals. “And our defense, we talked to each other, we played as a team.”

Johnson was the only Park player in double figures. Delaney Young added nine points, all in the second half as she sat out most of the first half after getting two quick fouls.

Woodbury led 24-18 at the break. The Royals were up 33-26 with about 12 minutes to play and then went on a five-minute scoring drought. Park climbed back to tie the game at 33-all with 4:59 left behind the offensive play of Johnson and Young.

“It’s a disappointing loss, but we just proved right here," Park coach Stephanie Tolkinen said. "When people talk about Woodbury and that they should be in the top-10 rated, well we’re right there. "We’re playing good defense. I thought we did a lot of good things tonight. I’m really proud of our kids.

“We missed a few opportunities, we missed a couple of defensive assignments,” Tolkinen added. “Offensively, I don’t think we were terrible. We missed some shots, but the deciding factor was they shot more free throws. They made more than we attempted. And when they make more than we attempt, it’s tough to win.”

Woodbury hosts Stillwater (0-5, 5-7) Friday, starting at 7:15 p.m., then takes on Park Center (7-4) Saturday in Brooklyn Center.

Park hosts sixth-ranked East Ridge (2-1, 8-3) Friday, tipping off at 7:15 p.m.