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Royals take thriller from Park girls

Woodbury's Carley West takes the ball away from Park's Chloe Venegas in a key steal in the game's final minutes. John Molene / Contributor 1 / 4
Woodbury senior Rachel Hakes drives the lane for a short shot against Park near the end of the first half. Hakes scored 13 points in Woodbury's 45-42 victory Friday. John Molene / Contributor 2 / 4
Woodbury's Solape Amusan shoots for two in the first half Friday, Jan. 6,2018, at Park. John Molene / Contributor 3 / 4
Annika Theurer (21) of the Wolfpack celebrates with teammates as her last-second bucket gave Park a one-point halftime lead over visiting Woodbury Friday. John Molene / Contributor 4 / 4

Woodbury's Royals made the clutch plays down the stretch to knock off rival Park in a dynamic girls basketball game Friday, Jan. 5.

The visiting Royals scored a gritty 45-42 victory at Park for their best win of the season.

For Park it was a stunning home-court loss and an early-season blow to their hopes of winning a Suburban East Conference basketball title.

Woodbury's Carley West and Solape Amusan made key buckets in the final minute and star senior guard Rachel Hakes sank two free throws with 21 seconds to play to secure the win. Park's Delaney Young missed a chance to tie the game with a three-pointer in the final seconds.

Asked if this was the Royals' best win of the season, West gave a qualified yes.

"I know we have many to come, but I felt we played a really good game today, and yes it was a really good win," West said. "We most definitely kept intensity throughout the game. We did what we had to do at the end. And we played really good defense."

Indeed, both teams struggled offensively to get into any kind of a flow as the defenses dominated for large stretches of the game.

Woodbury improved to 2-2 in the conference and 5-5 on the season.

Park suffered just its second loss of the year, but slipped to 2-2 in the SEC and 10-2 on the season. Both Woodbury and Park are now tied for fourth in the SEC.

Woodbury's West scored with 1:08 left to give the Royals a 41-40 lead. A basket by Amusan then gave Woodbury a 43-30 lead with 40 seconds left. Park's Taylor Johnson scored to cut the Woodbury lead to 43-32.

Hakes of the Royals then made both parts of a 1-and-1 with 17.8 second left to push Woodbury's lead back to three at 45-42.

Park head coach Stephanie Tolkinen called a time out to set up a final play. But the Woodbury defense forced the Wolfpack into a shot they didn't want — a long three-point attempt by post player Delaney Young that went wide of the mark in the final two seconds.

"I think it was one of those games where neither of us were really in our game," Tolkinen said. "You kind of plan for each other, it's a big rivalry, the kids get up for this game. I don't think Woodbury ever got into running really good flow or running a lot of their sets like they like to do and I wouldn't say that we really got into any kind of a flow or any kind of an offense either. They really mixed up their defenses well on us.

"I think what truly hurt us was one, was a lack of shooting, and we just had way too many turnovers," Tolkinen added.

Both teams played without key players for long stretches in the second half as Park's Young and Woodbury's Hakes picked up their fourth fouls and watched from the bench. That edge favored the Wolfpack, and they took advantage to climb back from an eight-point deficit in the second half.

"We knew they were a really balanced team so we just wanted to stay home and lock everyone down," Hakes said. "You can't really guard one person on Park."

Hakes finished with 13 points, West 10 and Lexy Paulson 10 for Woodbury.

Senior guard Chloe Venegas topped Park with 14 points. Riley Perryman and Johnson had nine each and Young six.

"We locked down in the second half and really crowded them, holding that team below 50 points in a game is tough," Woodbury coach Megan Kirchenwitz said.

"Their starting five — besides No. 12 who lit it up tonight — they're all averaging over 10 points a game. We were able to hold down their balance and I feel our changing defenses really disjointed what they were trying to do. They were having a hard time having any flow or tempo in the game. And that last stop just showed what they're (the Royals) defensive effort was," Kirchenwitz said.

The first half was tight and tense throughout with the defenses dominating. Park scored at the buzzer to take an 18-17 lead into the intermission.

Woodbury outscored Park 14-6 in the first six minutes of the second half, taking a 32-24 lead with 12 minutes to play. The Wolfpack then caught a break when star point guard Hakes picked up her fourth foul and headed to the bench.

With Hakes benched, the Wolfpack fought back into the game and tied it a 35-all with five minutes remaining. Neither team led by more than three the rest of the way.

It doesn't get any easier for the Wolfpack. Up next for Park is another SEC showdown at eighth-ranked Roseville (8-3, 2-2) Tuesday, Jan. 9. Before being upset 53-41 Friday night at Forest Lake, Roseville's only two losses on the season have come to No. 2 Wayzata and No. 7 Cretin-Derham Hall

Woodbury hosts an East Ridge team (0-11, 0-4) Tuesday still looking for its first win of the season.