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Girls' basketball: Park shoots down Woodbury in second half

Woodbury guard Rachel Hakes goes to the basket as Park's Saren Croker gets a hand up in the first half Friday night at Woodbury. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Park senior guard Taylor Johnson makes a move to the basket in the second half against the defense of Woodbury's Carly West. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
Woodbury's Solape Amusan (44) and Lexy Paulson (24) box in Park post player Delaney Young as she tries to go up for a shot in the second half Friday. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

WOODBURY — After one of their worst halves of the season, the Park Wolfpack turned in one of their best.

Down 16-7 at halftime, the Wolfpack outscored host Woodbury 29-15 in the second half to win a 36-31 thriller in Suburban East Conference girls basketball Friday.

The Wolfpack won it with clutch outside shooting by their guards. Blanked from 3-point land in the first half, the Wolfpack buried five 3-point field goals in the first seven minutes of the second to shoot themselves back into the game. Chloe Venegas opened the outside barrage and Molly Wenner hit three in a row to pull Park to within 26-23 with 9 minutes, 8 seconds to play.

"Our shooters were ready," said Park head coach Stephanie Tolkinen of Park's second-half rally. "Our shooters were moving, they were ready, they were confident ... And then we were able to get some lanes. When you can make some threes, we started a little pick-and-roll action trying to draw some of that defense out and we got in the paint a little bit."

Taylor Johnson then gave Park a 28-26 lead at 6:36 and the rest of the game was a back-and-forth thriller.

"We kept making our plays that we wanted to do in the first half," said Wenner. "And things were all coming together and everyone was setting good screens for each other."

Solape Amusan scored to give the lead back to the Royals at 29-28. Johnson then drove and scored to make it a 32-31 Park advantage with 1:10 to play.

Woodbury's Rachel Hakes drove to the basket but missed, and Venegas was fouled on the rebound. She made both free throws to put Park up 34-31.

After a Woodbury time out, Amusan missed on a two, Johnson rebounded and was fouled. She made both free throws with two seconds left to clinch the win for the Wolfpack.

Park improved to 17-5 on the season and 8-4 in the SEC. It was the sixth win in eight games for the Wolfpack, with their only losses in that stretch a 10-point loss to seventh-ranked Cretin-Derham Hall, and a four-point loss at top-ranked Eastview.

Woodbury dropped to 11-11 overall and 6-6 in the conference.

Wenner led Park with 11 points while teammates Johnson and Venegas had nine apiece.

It was sweet revenge for the Wolfpack. Woodbury won the first meeting between the two teams this season, 45-42, on Jan. 5.

Junior forward Amusan led Woodbury with 11 points. Woodbury star senior point guard Rachel Hakes scored eight points in the first half but was held scoreless in the second. It was just the third time in 22 games this season that Hakes has been held under double digits.

"Holding a team like that to 36 ... was great. Offense was our struggle," said Woodbury coach Megan Kirchenwitz. "They obviously outscored us in the second half. They made the shots when they needed to, and we didn't defend as well as we could've in (certain) possessions. However, I can't be mad at the 36. I'm mad at the way we played offensively, frustrated."

Park couldn't buy a bucket in the first half, and none of the Wolfpack had more than two points at the break.

"We kind of had a collapse on offense, which then brought our energy down so we weren't really executing as much," said Park's Johnson. "We just couldn't get in our flow, like we were over thinking everything. But then the second half came and we got it back together."

"In the first half, they did exactly what we expected them to do and we didn't execute," said Tolkinen. "We expected them to be dropping down in the paint, playing two to three people in the paint. We didn't shoot well against them last time. And we weren't kicking the ball — our guards on the perimeter weren't moving very well, and so they weren't moving into the open spot for our post to kick out to them to look to get the three."

"It didn't matter what we were trying, it just seemed we didn't get a lot of good looks," Tolkinen added. "And I thought Woodbury was really sharp. Everything we tried doing, they had somebody there. Hey had a stop there, they had a stop there. We didn't get the ball in the hole."

That all changed in the second half as the Wolfpack found themselves open for clean threes time after time.

On Tuesday, Woodbury plays at East Ridge (0-21, 0-11) while Park hosts Roseville (14-6, 6-5).

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