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East Ridge-Woodbury clash set for section semifinals

East Ridge's Courtney Brown Jr. goes up for two points in the second half against St. Paul Central Wednesday night, March 7, 2018. Brown hit the game-winner with a second to play to keep the season alive for the Raptors. John Molene / Sports Writer1 / 4
Ben Carlson of the Raptors drives to the basket in the second half against St. Paul Central. Carlson had 27 points in East Ridge's 68-66 victory Wednesday, March 7, 2018. John Molene / Sports Writer 2 / 4
East Ridge's Zach Zebrowski finds the going tough inside against St. Paul Central in the second half Wednesday. Zebrowski scored 14 points including several big shots from the outside. John Molene / Sports Writer 3 / 4
East Ridge guard TJ Kelly drives the ball down the court against St. Paul Central Wednesday. Kelly scored 10 points for the Raptors in the game. John Molene / Sports Writer 4 / 4

Second-seeded East Ridge and third-seeded Woodbury both won Wednesday, March 7, to set up a showdown match in the Section 4AAAA semifinals Saturday.

Woodbury (16-11) eased past White Bear Lake 56-46 in one section quarterfinal while East Ridge (22-5) won a 68-66 thriller over visiting St. Paul Central to set up the clash. The game will be played 5 p.m. Saturday at Hastings High School.

Top-ranked and No. 1 seed Cretin-Derham Hall (25-2) blitzed Stillwater 63-34 and 10th ranked North St. Paul (23-4) edged Tartan to set up the other section showdown. Saturday’s winners will play for the section title Thursday evening, March 15, also at Hastings.

It was the 10th straight win for the fifth-ranked Raptors, but it didn’t come easy.

Courtney Brown Jr. put in an offensive rebound off a Ben Carlson missed shot with a second left to win the game for the Raptors.

“Zach (Zebrowski) was going to get the ball and me and Courtney were going to crisscross and set a screen for each other and hopefully get the last shot off. And Courtney got a really nice rebound,” said Carlson, who led East Ridge with 27 points, 19 of them in the first half. “It worked pretty good for us.”

“I wanted to get Ben and Courtney involved in a little two-man game,” East Ridge coach Bryce Tesdahl said. “So we set a little on-ball screen. Whoever was open first was going to get the ball. Ben got open. Courtney set a ball screen. We wanted one of those guys to get a shot and then have the other guy at the rim just in case there was a rebound. Ben missed and then we had our guy down there to get a rebound. Glad we got a shot and then a second shot. That’s usually how you win in March. It’s not the first shot, it’s the second shot.”

Brown had 15 points for the Raptors, Zebrowski 14 and TJ Kelly had 10.

St. Paul Central ended its season at 16-10.

“St. Paul Central is not a seven seeder, we knew that coming in,” Tesdahl said. “They play hard. They’ve got a lot of good athletes and they gave it their all. They shot it well. Luckily we got the last shot and we made it and that’s March for you. You can throw out seeds and you can throw out records. You’ve just got to play and I’m glad we came out on the winning side.”

St. Paul Central led 38-37 at the half before the Raptors got rolling to open the second half. East Ridge opened the second half by outscoring the Minutemen 14-3 to take a 51-41 lead with 11:34 to play. But the Minutemen refused to go away and cut the margin to 58-55 and then 66-65 with 1:51 left.

“At first we were struggling but we got into our pace of play and wanted to work for the shots that we wanted and putting emphasis on getting Ben and Courtney the ball inside and having us work off of them,” Zebrowski said.

East Ridge also tightened up the defense in the second half. After giving up 38 points to Central in the first half, they held the visitors to 28 in the second.

“We were struggling on transition,” Zebrowski said. “They were starting to get a lot of quick shots in transition. In the beginning you saw that, they put up 38 points and put an emphasis on the D boards. They really liked to crash the boards so we had to put an emphasis on that and make sure we were working on that as guards.”

Carlson kept the Raptors in the game in the first half, dominating the action inside.

“Offensive rebounds and putbacks, that was working for me tonight,” Carlson said.

Woodbury and East Ridge split the regular-season series this winter each winning on each other’s court. Woodbury won at East Ridge 69-57 on Jan. 10, but the Raptors scored a dominant victory at Woodbury 69-44 on Feb. 13.

Michael Jones scored 25 points and Raysean Treadwell added 10 to power the Woodbury Royals past White Bear Lake at Woodbury Wednesday.

Woodbury led 32-16 at the half and cruised to the victory. The Royals improved to 16-11 on the season.