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Boys basketball: Woodbury hangs on for 75-69 win over East Ridge

Down by as much as 18 points in the second half, East Ridge made a late run to cut Woodbury's lead to seven points with a minute left, but the Royals hung on for a 75-69 win.1 / 3
East Ridge's Ryan Keenan boxes out Matt Ambriz in the Royals and Raptors intra-district showdown.2 / 3
Renard Suggs led Woodbury with a game-high 24 points in the Royals' win over the Raptors.3 / 3

Back in December, East Ridge came back from 22 points down to beat rival Woodbury. On Friday, the Royals made sure it didn't happen again.

Down by as much as 18 points in the second half, East Ridge made a late run to cut Woodbury's lead to seven points with a minute left, but the Royals hung on for a 75-69 Suburban East Conference victory.

"I'm happy with the result, but I didn't like the way it ended," Woodbury head coach Scott Swansson said. "We need to finish out games better than that. We had a nice lead and could have made it more, but we let them back in the game."

The win was Woodbury's eighth in a row and 11th in its last 12 games.

"It's very big," Woodbury senior guard Diallo Powell said. "They're on the other side of the city and this is our last time playing them this year, so we had to put our heart and soul into this game."

In the game, Woodbury junior Matt Ambriz delivered what seemed to be the dagger, knocking down a 3-pointer with 7 minutes, 5 seconds remaining in the second half - giving the Royals (15-3; 9-2 SEC) an 18-point lead, 67-49. But, East Ridge (14-4; 8-3 SEC) outscored Woodbury 20-8 in the final seven minutes of the game to make it interesting. However, the hole proved too large to climb out of.

"I feel bad, because I think if we would've executed better in the beginning, we wouldn't have needed heroics at the end," East Ridge head coach Paul Virgin said.

Woodbury, which is ranked eighth in the state in Class AAAA, controlled the game early. A 3-pointer by Woodbury senior Renard Suggs gave the Royals a 24-11 lead with 9:46 remaining in the first half. The Royals then went up 15 points, 39-24, with 3:06 left in the first half after a 3-pointer by Ambriz. East Ridge cut the deficit, but still trailed 40-28 at the break.

Woodbury came out hot in the second half. Suggs hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Royals up 48-34 about four minutes into the second half. Then, Powell converted a 3-point play after being fouled while scoring on a layup to put Woodbury ahead 56-39 with 12:11 left.

"We had a little run and kind of took off," Swansson said. "That's how we play. We're used to it. We get out and go. We like to shoot it before we throw it away."

In the second half, down the stretch, East Ridge junior Brian Ishola got going, scoring three baskets in the final seven minutes, and sophomore guard Sid Tomes drained a 3-pointer from the corner off a steal by junior Brad Simonson to make it a 75-68 game with 52 seconds left. But, that's as close as East Ridge would get.

"I'm disappointed in the outcome and the score, but I'm not disappointed at how hard our kids fought," Virgin said. "I thought our effort was there, I just think we didn't execute. We didn't finish. We had chances for layups. When you miss wide-open layups and they come down and hit a 3, that's a huge momentum killer for us. We need to work on that and try to execute better."

Much of Woodbury's success came in transition, off of East Ridge turnovers.

"We're best at defense and transition basketball," Powell said. "We like to get up and down and try to wear out our opponents with our speed."

With 6-foot, 7-inch Conrad Sexe, 6-foot, 9-inch Ryan Keenan and 6-foot, 5-inch Ryan Mathis on the floor, East Ridge had a distinct size advantage on Woodbury, however, the Raptors weren't able to fully capitalize on it.

"We had to box out Ishola and Sexe and get the defensive and offensive rebounds," Powell said. "But, we had to watch out for those two."

Suggs led Woodbury with a game-high 24 points and Ambriz netted 18 points. Also, senior Rob Claypool chipped in 11 points. For East Ridge, Tomes led the way with 21 points. Junior guard Jake Knupp scored 17 points and Ishola had 14.

The win by Woodbury knotted up the all-time series between the two Woodbury-based schools at 4-4.

Virgin, who was an assistant coach under Swansson at Woodbury before East Ridge opened in 2009, said the rivalry is "great".

"It's a true rivalry," Virgin said. "But, (Swansson) and I each hope each other wins every game but two. I have a great deal of respect for him as a coach and for his program. This is fun to play and something I think the kids will remember for the rest of their life."

Swansson, though, isn't a fan of the rivalry.

"I hate it," Swansson said. "These kids grew up playing with each other on (Woodbury Athletic Association) teams. Now, all of a sudden, it's split and these kids have to play against each other. I just don't like the split in the community. I liked it when it was one, big happy family. I don't like to see Woodbury people cheering against other Woodbury people."

Woodbury took on Hudson, Wis., on Tuesday, after the Bulletin went to press. Next, the Royals hit the road to take on Stillwater (12-5; 7-4 SEC) on Friday.

"I like the way we're playing," Swansson said. "There are nights I'm really happy we're playing and there are nights I think we need to really work on some things."

East Ridge next plays against Hastings (2-14; 1-10 SEC) at home on Thursday.

"We're showing some things," Virgin said. "It's the homestretch. We're ramping up. We want to be playing our best ball in March."