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East Ridge rolls back 22-point deficit to beat Woodbury

East Ridge junior Brian Ishola puts up a shot Friday over Woodbury's Diallo Powell.1 / 4
East Ridge center Ryan Keenan goes in for two against Woodbury.2 / 4
Woodbury's Diallo Powell gets two the easy way on a breakaway against East Ridge.3 / 4
East Ridge fans erupt as junior guard Jake Knupp ices the game from the free throw line against Woodbury.4 / 4

Woodbury's cross-town rivalry lived up to its billing Friday night.

An apparent laugher at one point with Woodbury up 22 points at the half, the Raptors chiseled away in the second half on its way to 72-67 home victory.

East Ridge improved its overall record to 6-1 with the win and moved into first place in the Suburban East Conference at 2-0. Woodbury dropped to 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the SEC.

Down 45-23 at the break, the Raptors did just what the Royals did in the first half - cultivated turnovers and buried open shots - and a little more in the second frame.

"I think our kids grew up a lot in the second half," said East Ridge head coach Paul Virgin.

He said his players committed to put in the work for a victory during halftime, no matter the score.

The Raptors accomplished that with a stiff Woodbury wind in its face. The Royals employed an opportunistic first-half defense that limited interior passes to East Ridge's big men and capitalized on the turnovers. Three pointers continued to fall for Woodbury, including the final shot of the first half - a buzzer beater that put the Royals up 45-23.

But East Ridge showed no signs of weakness in the second half. Shots that hadn't gone in for the Raptors in the opening frame were dropping. Meanwhile, the Royals hit a cold snap and fell victim to tightened-up East Ridge defense.

East Ridge junior forward Brian Ishola led the early second-half charge on his way to a 19-point night.

"Brian Ishola is a warrior," Virgin said.

And then Jake Knupp caught fire.

The junior guard helped the Raptors grab momentum with 8:35 remaining the in the game with his second 3-pointer of the half, drawing East Ridge to within nine points.

Woodbury continued to feel the chill, including an opportunity with 6:53 left when it failed to extend its lead when three put-back shots didn't fall.

Knupp, who finished with 24 points on the night, brought the Raptors to within two on another 3-pointer.

East Ridge finally recaptured the lead with about one minute remaining, when the team went up 68-67. Sophomore guard Sid Tomes extended the lead to 70-67 after sinking two free throws.

Woodbury was left with one last opportunity to tie the game, but a Renard Suggs 3-point shot fell short.

"It's always fun to win the cross-town game," Virgin said. "I'm especially proud of how our team didn't give up."

Knupp called the victory "the biggest win of the season so far."

"We slowly but surely came back," he said.

Suggs and fellow senior Mario Franco led the Woodbury scoring attack with 15 points apiece. Robert Claypool scored 14 for the Royals, while Diallo Powell recorded 11 points on the night.

East Ridge center Conrad Sexe chipped in 11 for the Raptors.

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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