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Boys' Basketball: Raptors hold off Royals, grab share of SEC lead

East Ridge guard Nick Christenson goes up for a shot in the first half against visiting Woodbury Tuesday. Christenson scored 21 points in a 66-61 win by the seventh-ranked Raptors. (Photo by John Molene)1 / 6
Courtney Brown Jr. of East Ridge (22) shoots over Woodbury center Nathan Bursch (44) in the first half. Brown scored 13 points for the Raptors Tuesday. (Photo by John Molene)2 / 6
East Ridge head coach Paul Virgin tells the Raptors how proud he is of them in the final seconds of a 66-61 win over Woodbury Tuesday. (Photo by John Molene)3 / 6
Woodbury's Michael Jones tries to get past the defense of East Ridge's Nick Christenson and Courtney Brown Jr. in the second half. Jones scored 25 points to pace the Royals. (Photo by John Molene)4 / 6
Woodbury guard Jake West (4) shoots over East Ridge's Courtney Brown Jr. (22) in the second half Tuesday. West had 17 points for the Royals Tuesday. (Photo by John Molene)5 / 6
Senior forward Michael Remke of the Raptors goes up for a short shot against Woodbury in the first half Tuesday. (Photo by John Molene)6 / 6

Nick Christenson scored 21 points, and three other East Ridge players scored in double figures as the host Raptors knocked off archrival Woodbury in a huge Suburban East Conference game Tuesday 66-61.

Seventh-ranked East Ridge moved into a two-way tie for the top in the conference, sharing the lead with Woodbury at 12-2, with Cretin-Derham Hall a half-game back at 11-2.

“I told them how proud of them I was and how they stuck together through this adversity and that we’re not done yet,” East Ridge head coach Paul Virgin said. “We’ve got a tough opponent coming in on Friday. So we want to celebrate tonight, but we’re going to come back and work hard tomorrow. And also how great it is when a bunch of young men can do when nobody cares who gets the credit.”

Christenson scored eight straight points midway through the second half to give East Ridge a 50-42 advantage, a lead the Raptors never surrendered. But the Royals made it interesting.

Woodbury’s Ike Thilgen drained a 3-point field goal with 1:20 left to cut East Ridge’s lead to 61-59. Woodbury then closed to 62-61 on two free throws by Michael Jones. Christenson answered at the other end, sinking a pair of free throws for a 64-61 lead with 14.8 seconds left.

Woodbury’s Jones came down and set up for the shot everybody in the gym expected he would shoot, but his effort just hit the front of the rim and bounced off with 1.8 seconds to play.

Marcus Haskins of the Raptors sunk two free throws to close out the game.

“We played as a team,” Ben Franks said. “We worked the ball around. We were patient on offense. Just everything we did was together, and that’s why we came out on top.”

Haskins and Courtney Brown Jr. had 13 points for East Ridge while TJ Kelly added 10.

The Raptors survived despite big offensive games from Woodbury stars Jones (25 points) and Jake West (17 points).

Seventh-ranked East Ridge improved to 18-5 overall. Woodbury dropped to 17-6.

It was a revenge game of sorts for the Raptors. Woodbury defeated East Ridge 80-74 in the first meeting between the two teams this season.

East Ridge came into the contest minus three starters from that game, all lost for the season with injuries or illness. Starting point guard Michael Virgin broke his wrist, starting center Ben Carlson is out after suffering a concussion and forward Zach Bennett was diagnosed with mononucleosis.

“We’ve been kind of a MASH unit, but we’ve been sticking together and working hard,” coach Virgin said. “People like Ben Franks and Michael Remke stepped up into a starter role, and people like TJ Kelly and Brady Kunz stepped up from a JV role into a varsity role and just did great.”

The first half was a seesaw affair with no less than nine ties while neither team could get a decisive edge in the period that ended at 31-all.

The game was tied at 40-all with 13:30 to play when Christenson broke loose over a three-minute period. He knocked down two 3-point field goals then added a 2-pointer to give East Ridge a 50-42 lead with 10:26 to play.

Woodbury closed to three at 59-56 with 1:57 remaining and then to two at 61-59 with 1:20 left, but never regained the lead.

“They were just way more ready than we were,” Woodbury head coach Kent Getzlaff said of the Raptors. “They had a better plan. He (Virgin) had a really good defensive game plan, and we didn’t do a good job of countering that at any point in the first or second half.

“We got a couple of OK looks from guys that usually make them, but that’s the way it goes some nights,” Getzlaff added. “I didn’t do a good enough job of getting the right guys on our team more offensive looks. So, no time to rest. We’ve got Cretin on Friday, and hopefully, in the next two days we’ll do a better job of getting ready for that game.”

Woodbury hosts Cretin-Derham Hall (16-7, 11-2) Friday in another key SEC matchup.

East Ridge hosts Mounds View (9-13, 5-7) Friday.

“It’s a big win and all, but we still have three more games we’ve got to go play and win,” Remke said.