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Woodbury boys basketball: Royals off to 3-1 start

Woodbury’s Matt Ambriz brings the ball up the court in a recent game. The senior guard is averaging 28 points per game as the Royals started 3-1. (Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker)1 / 2
Senior guard Charlie Olson and the Royals beat Edina and Rosemount last week. (Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker)2 / 2

So much for the great unknown.

The Royals buttoned up the bulk of their non-conference schedule – comprising a slate of diverse, unfamiliar opponents – toting a 3-1 record and a fresh head of steam. The season now gives way to teams from Woodbury’s own Suburban East Conference, which doesn’t make life any easier for coach Scott Swansson and his Royals.

However, he said this year’s nonconference schedule helped prepare the team for what lies ahead.

“We haven’t played any cupcakes,” he said. “I think we’ve been competitive in every game. It can’t do anything but help us going into conference.”

Last week got a bumpy start for the Royals during a road match-up against St. Paul Johnson, though Woodbury rebounded in time to win its two other games of the week – a road contest against Edina and a home game against Rosemount.

Through the first four games, Swansson likes what he’s seeing out of the team.

“They just grind games out,” he said. “I like that kind of team. We’ll be in a lot of games if we keep that attitude up.”

Swansson said the Dec. 3 Johnson game reminded the Royals what kind of team they are – and what they are not.

“At the half, I told them we tried to play 100 mph,” he said. “We’re built for 52 (mph).”

Despite a second-half momentum shift that saw Woodbury grab a momentary one-point lead, the Governors went on to win 74-61.

“It was good for us,” Swansson said of the loss. “It helped us the rest of the week.”

Senior guard Matt Ambriz led all scorers with 22 points and was followed by Woodbury senior center Ben Rizzardi, who added 20 points.

Woodbury stayed on the road on Friday and pulled off a 77-61 win over Edina

Swansson said he was encouraged to see his Royals battle back from an early 14-2 deficit to take a 34-30 halftime lead.

Woodbury roared out of the gates in the second half, burying two 3-pointers that helped widen the margin.

Ambriz again led all scorers against Edina with 25 points. Fellow Woodbury seniors Charlie Olson and Isaiah Codden added 14 and 11 points, respectively.

Resilience, Swansson said, was the name of the game.

“We didn’t panic, which was nice to see,” he said.

The coach did have concerns heading into Saturday’s Rosemount game. He said he scouted out the Fighting Irish in their win over Shakopee.

“I was very worried,” Swansson said. “They’re good.”

But Ambriz continued his torrid streak, erupting for 31 points against Rosemount as the Royals went on to win 80-68. Rizzardi scored 12 points for Woodbury, while fellow senior Ben Meyer added 11 points.

“We had another good team effort,” Swansson said.

The Rosemount game brought an end to nonconference games for Woodbury until the Rotary US Bank Holiday Classic tournament in Rochester and a January game against Hopkins.

The Royals kicked off the SEC schedule on Tuesday after the Bulletin went to press in a home game against Park (2-3), who rebounded from a throttling against North St. Paul to win by 30 over South St. Paul.

The Royals get another SEC contest on Friday at home against Stillwater (2-1). Swansson said this year’s Ponies boast a tough inside presence with 6-foot, 10-inch center Kyle McKinley and another junior, Matt Anderson.

“They’ve got a nice team,” Swansson said.

The Stillwater game tips off at 7:15 p.m. at WHS.

-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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