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Girls basketball: Woodbury's team effort sinks East Ridge

Woodbury's bench celebrates as the Royals beat rival East Ridge 48-32 on Friday, Dec. 22, at Woodbury High School.

It's a whole new ballgame in Woodbury.

On the heels of a 10-18 season, the Woodbury girls basketball team is on its way to matching its win total from a year ago, improving to 6-2 with a 48-32 win over intra-district and Suburban East Conference rival East Ridge on Friday, Dec. 22, at Woodbury High School.

Under the guidance of new head coach Nathan McGuire, Woodbury is implementing a team-first approach - and it's working.

In the win over East Ridge, Woodbury got scoring contributions from nine different players and shut down the Raptors with a stifling defensive effort. Up 23-22 at the half, the Royals held East Ridge to just 10 points, while scoring 25, in the second half.

"We're a team. That's the thing I'm really focusing on," McGuire said. "As a team we can accomplish more than we can with just one or two individuals. We're not just putting it all on one person's shoulders. We're doing this together. I think that's going to take us a long way this year. It has helped us already."

East Ridge head coach Glen Wurm said his team didn't execute offensively, which was a major factor in the loss.

"In the second half they picked up their defensive intensity and put a little more pressure on us," Wurm said. "We just needed to be more aggressive and go to the basket more. We started to do it right at the end, but it was too little, too late unfortunately."

Woodbury was able to beat East Ridge despite All-State guard and Division I recruit Kristina White held to just four points in the game. White picked up two quick fouls to start the game and sat on the bench for the majority of the first half. In the second, her shots weren't falling, but McGuire said White contributed in a number of ways, which helped the Royals earn the win.

"Kristina is just a leader," he said. "When she came in the second half, even though she didn't score a lot she still has that leadership presence about her. She gets us going and was a big reason why we got out to the lead right away in the second half. She was making stops defensively and keeping us running. Even though you don't see it on the stats, she did a lot of intangibles that helped us tonight."

Senior guard Marissa Olsen led the Royals in scoring with 14 points, including 10 in the first half. Fellow senior Mikaela Hunter had a double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds.

Hunter, a post player and team co-captain, scored all 10 of her points in the second half, dominating inside as Woodbury pulled away.

"(Hunter) came up huge in the second half," McGuire said. "She hit her shots and got big rebounds. That was really the difference in the second half. She played within herself and just kind of dominated inside for us. That was a big difference in the game."

Hunter said she likes doing the dirty work that helps her team win games.

"I just felt like I needed to do what our team needed me to do to get the win," Hunter said. "I was just looking to hit shots when I was open. I like rebounding a lot. I just like doing the hustle-plays a lot. They're definitely important I think."

In the second half, East Ridge didn't score its first points until 5 minutes and 20 seconds had gone by. The Raptors also went through another stretch of 8:19 without scoring a point in the second half. Woodbury opened the second half with a 9-0 run, capped by a layup inside by Hunter, that gave the Royals a 10-point lead - one that they would never relinquish.

"Overall, I thought we had a good defensive effort, but offensively we gotta put the ball in the basket or get to the line and hit our free throws," Wurm said. "Giving up 48, with 10-12 of them coming in the last minutes when we're scrambling, is alright, but offensively, scoring 32 points isn't going to get it done."

In the first half, Woodbury went ahead 20-15 on a 3-pointer by Olsen. However, East Ridge outscored the Royals 6-3 in the final five minutes of the first half. An offensive rebound and jumper by East Ridge's Ellen Wiggins at the buzzer made it a 23-22 game. But, that's as close as the Raptors would get.

Junior forward Jamie Swanson led East Ridge in scoring with eight points, seven of which came in the first half. In addition, senior guard Hannah Pignato scored six points and senior guard Brianna Walker chipped in five points.

"We want good ball movement, which is going to create space, but you have to be ready to attack when you can or find open teammates inside," Wurm said. "We wanted to go down inside and were just unable to do that. Especially in the second half, we struggled with that."

Woodbury is now 6-1 all-time against East Ridge. The two teams split last year, with East Ridge winning its first-ever game over the Royals 61-55 at East Ridge last January.

"Our goal is to have a better record than last year," Hunter said. "We want to win all the games we lost last year. I'm just really proud of our team. We've really come together and are really close friends. I think that's helped us get this winning record."

Woodbury needs to travel to East Ridge for a rematch on Feb. 1. Next, the Raptors host to SEC foe Hastings on Friday, Jan. 4, while the Royals face their toughest test of the season - No. 1 Hopkins, on Thursday, Jan. 3, at Hopkins.

Win or lose against Hopkins, Hunter has high hopes for her Royals this year.

"Our big goal this year is to make it to state," she said. "We seniors have been playing together since we were really little kids. Our goal ever since then was to go to state our senior year. I definitely think we can do it."