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Boys' Basketball: East Ridge cruises against rival Park

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East Ridge freshman Ben Carlson goes to the hoop against the defense of Park's Brendan Beaulieu. (Bulletin photo by Blaze Fugina)2 / 4
Park's Brendan Beaulieu tries to get a shot off over the hands of East Ridge defender Nick Christenson. (Bulletin photo by Blaze Fugina)3 / 4
Michael Virgin passes to a teammate during the first half of Friday's game against Park. (Bulletin photo by Blaze Fugina)4 / 4

East Ridge’s explosive offense was too much for district rival Park to keep up with on Friday night at East Ridge High School.

The Raptors jumped out to a 14-5 lead just six-and-a-half minutes into the Suburban East Conference game. From there the Wolfpack could never climb back in the 66-31 loss.

“We were moving the ball," East Ridge head coach Paul Virgin said. "We were scoring it really nice. Our kids understand what we’re doing; we understand our roles. And we are really accepting our roles, and trying to make the most of it and relishing it, really.”

East Ridge challenged Park’s offense throughout the first half as it led 37-15 at halftime.

Freshman Ben Carlson came off the bench to score 12 points in the first half on his way to a 19-point night.

Afterward, Virgin was complimentary of what Carlson has done on the court this season as a freshman.

“The sky is the limit with that kid, he’s going to be really good,” Virgin said. “And the best part about him is he works hard, he accepts the coaching and he wants our team to do well.”

Carlson has made a jump to the varsity roster after playing eighth-grade basketball last season. He has adjusted well, averaging 12.7 points per game over 12 games this season.

But his first varsity season has also been a learning experience.

“It’s a lot more physical – varsity is than eighth grade,” Carlson said. “Everyone is a lot stronger and more experienced.”

Sophomore Courtney Brown Jr. scored 12 points for the Raptors Friday, and Zach Bennett also had 10 points.

The East Ridge players credit smart decisions on offense for the reason why they were so efficient in putting up points.

“We passed the ball around really well,” Bennett said. “We mostly got a lot of layups, so our percentage was pretty high that way. We were efficient because we didn’t just throw the ball up at the beginning of possessions.”

Brendan Beaulieu scored a team-high 10 points for Park.

The tough week of games continued with the 35-point loss Friday. The Wolfpack were coming off an 85-55 loss against another district rival Woodbury at home Tuesday.

Park head coach Ed Cassidy said the team has struggled against the two rivals in part because of inexperience. He would like to see the team settle down and make better decisions while running offensive plays.

“We’ve got a mixture of some seasoned vets, but we’ve got a lot of young guys that have kind of got the deer in the headlight type of thing going right now,” Cassidy said. “And going against kids that they know, it makes it kind of tough on them. Especially if they don’t have that experience of a lot of other teams that we’re playing.”

Park dropped to an overall record of 5-5, including 0-3 in SEC games with Friday’s loss. East Ridge improved to 9-3 overall and 4-1 against conference teams.

Virgin has been happy with what he has seen from his players in the first few months of the season. He even went out of his way to give a ringing job endorsement for everyone on the team.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of these guys,” Virgin said. “If the community wants somebody to help run a company, I’ve got 19 great guys here.”

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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