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Woodbury boys basketball: Royals eke out win over Stillwater

Woodbury’s student section rushed the floor Friday after the Royals’ 66-65 home win over Stillwater. (Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker)1 / 2
Senior guard Matt Ambriz scored 30 points Friday for the Royals in their home win against Stillwater. (Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker) 2 / 2

The Royals improved to 5-1 during a week that ended with an atmosphere more reminiscent of March than mid-December.

Leads changed hands multiple times and boisterous student sections rallied both teams during Woodbury’s thrilling 66-65 win Friday over visiting Stillwater amid a playoff-like atmosphere.

Royals fans rushed the court after the final buzzer sounded – and completed Woodbury’s comeback victory over the Ponies.

“It’s big,” said Woodbury head coach Scott Swansson. “You talk about these games. You fight for a conference championship in March and wish you could have won this or that game.”

Friday’s was just that sort of a contest, he said – a gut-check of a game that required Woodbury to overcome a 14 point deficit with 12 minutes left in regulation against an opponent with weapons inside and out of the paint.

Swansson called a timeout after the Royals were down by 14 and called on players to initiate full-court pressure.

The adjustment worked. Woodbury immediately came away with turnovers and transition baskets, in addition to senior guard Matt Ambriz catching fire from 3-point territory. Ambriz finished the game with 30 points behind seven 3-pointers.

The Royals stayed on a tear and built a double-digit lead of their own. The Ponies weren’t done, however.

Stillwater, led by sharp-shooting junior guard Connor Gamble’s 25 points, stormed back in the closing two minutes and created a series of back-and-forth possessions that didn’t end until the Ponies’ final shot missed the mark.

“I wish we could do that all the time and not have to come from behind,” Swansson said.

He praised the play of senior guard Isaiah Codden, who emerged as a second-half force for the Royals. Codden, who slammed home three dunks in the game – including a crowd-pleaser off an alley-oop pass from Ambriz – finished with 18 points.

“I thought Isaiah Codden played great against Stillwater,” Swansson said.

Senior center Ben Rizzardi scored 10 points in the game and helped keep the Ponies’ 6-foot, 9-inch postman Kyle McKinley to seven points on the night.

The win followed Woodbury’s Dec. 10 home win over Park. Senior Reid Peters led the Woodbury scoring attack with 12 points; Rizzardi scored 10 in the effort.

Swansson credited the Royals’ defense, which held Park to eight second-half points.

“We made it hard for them to score,” he said.

The Royals returned to action Tuesday in a road game against Mounds View (3-2; 0-2 SEC) played after the Bulletin went to press. The Royals end the week on Friday when they travel to Hastings (3-3; 1-1 SEC).

-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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