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Woodbury boys basketball: Royals stay on a roll

WHS guard Rickey Suggs drives the lane last week against White Bear Lake. Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker

It all seems to be clicking for the Royals.

After a hiccup at home that nearly tarnished Woodbury's unblemished Suburban East Conference record, the Royals went back on a roll, defeating Forest Lake by 20 points and topping Hastings Tuesday 73-57.

The Hastings win put Woodbury's SEC record at 7-0 - a mark that leads the conference by a full game over Roseville.

Woodbury now has three players averaging double-digits through 12 games: junior Renard Suggs (14.3), senior Connor McKeen (13.8) and senior Rickey Suggs (13.4). A fourth player, senior Ryan Fritze, is averaging 9.3 points per game for the Royals.

"There are some guys that are committed to doing well," Royals coach Scott Swansson said of his team, which is 11-2 overall. "They don't like to lose."

That was evidenced Friday at Forest Lake, where Woodbury won 85-65 after finding itself in an early hole. Down by eight points in the first half, Swansson said his players clamped down on defense.

"I don't know what happened," he said. "Everybody played really good defense."

Woodbury went into halftime intermission with a 35-27 lead.

Then they opened up the scoring spigot.

Swansson said his Royals were able to crack the Rangers' 1-3-1 defense, so Forest Lake turned to a full-court press that had even less success.

"It was kind of showtime after that," he said.

Rickey Suggs led all scorers with 27 points after shooting 11 for 14 from the field. His brother, Renard Suggs, scored 14 against Forest Lake and was followed by McKeen, who scored 13. Senior Ben Rexroth finished with 10.

Renard Suggs also dished out 10 assists in the game. Rickey Suggs led the team in rebounds with seven. He and Fritze both grabbed three steals apiece against Forest Lake.

Friday's victory came after an 81-78 overtime squeaker win against White Bear Lake at home.

The game started off as a high scoring affair that closed the first half with Woodbury leading 53-47.

After that, the Bears shut down Woodbury's scoring output, limiting the Royals to just 18 second-half points.

"Both teams really tried to concentrate on their defense," Swansson said.

After trailing the entire game, the Bears snatched the lead with 4:17 left in the game - a lead that stood until Fritze drilled a three pointer with 12 seconds left to tie the game. White Bear Lake missed a last-second shot that would have sealed the game.

Instead, the teams went into a tightly played overtime period. McKeen, who scored 15 points in the game, ultimately iced the game from the free throw line, where he sank two critical shots.

Rickey Suggs paced Woodbury's scoring attack with 23 points. Renard Suggs scored 19 against the Bears, while Fritze added 15.

Woodbury struggled mightily from the free-throw line against White Bear Lake. The Royals hit just six of 15 shots from the charity stripe, a statistic that spurred action from Swansson.

He made his team shoot 100 free throws the next day at practice.

"We need to get better at that," he said.

The Royals returned to action Tuesday in a home game against Hastings that was played after the Bulletin went to press. Woodbury travels Friday to River Falls for a game Swansson said leaves question marks.

He noted that River Falls "got demolished" earlier in the season by Stillwater, but later lost a close game to Tartan - one of Minnesota's top AAAA teams.

"I don't know what team is going to show up," Swansson said.