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Woodbury hoping to peak

By AARON PAITICH, Special to the Star Tribune, 02/15/13, 5:15PM CST


The Royals are a gaudy 17-3, but coach Scott Swansson said they can still play better.

Woodbury’s Renard Suggs blocked Beau Smit’s attempted shot for White Bear Lake last Tuesday. Suggs averages a team-high 20.1 points for the Royals. Photo: Jeff Wheeler • jwheeler@startribune.com

The Woodbury boys' basketball team hasn't played what its coach considers a complete game yet this season. With the Royals' 17-3 overall and 10-2 in conference through Tuesday, that's a frightening thought.

But it's still a concern for coach Scott Swansson.

"It's going OK," Swansson said.

Just "OK" because the Royals have been straddling a half-game personality disorder all season long. They'll come out strong and build a large lead only to lose focus and let teams back into the game during the final 18 minutes. In a game Feb. 8, Woodbury built a 24-point lead in the first half against Stillwater, but ended up winning by one point.

On the flip side, the Royals have also started games flat and "unemotional," Swansson said, only to fire up for a second-half comeback.

"Sometimes our intensity goes out the window and we lose our concentration a little bit," Swansson said. "But when the money's on the table and the chips are there, I think everybody knows what we need to do to finish out a game."

They've finished out some big ones. Woodbury's signature victory this season was against conference and section rival Roseville, ranked fourth in Class 4A at the time. Down by 15 points to the Raiders, the Royals surged to win by nine.

"We can score a lot of points in spurts, but we can give up a lot in a quick spurt, too," Swansson said.

It was the Raiders' first loss of the season to a Minnesota team. The Royals now sit at No. 8 in the state, one spot ahead of Roseville. Both teams continue chugging along together at the top of the Suburban East Conference standings.

With the starting five all averaging double figures, Woodbury has scoring power that rivals any team in the state.

"We have five guys that have the green light to shoot it at any time," Swansson said. "I think we have found an offense that fits our team. We have guys that can handle the ball and shoot it. All five of them can do both of those things. If they try to take away one guy, someone else steps up."

The Royals are running the dribble-drive offense. "When it's clicking, it's pick your poison," Swansson said.

If teams pressure the Royals, they will beat them off the dribble to the basket. If the defense sags, the Royals can shoot the three-pointer. And nobody shoots from long distance better than senior Renard Suggs.

Leading up to Tuesday's game against White Bear Lake, Suggs was 69-of-159 from three-point range, 43.4 percent, and 53.8 percent on all field-goal attempts. Suggs is averaging a team-high 20.1 points per game.

For Suggs, it's all about putting in the work.

"Practicing in the gym. Always," Suggs said. "I'm always in there constantly shooting."

Diallo Powell and Matt Ambriz are averaging 12.2 points per game, Mario Franco and Robert Claypool just over 10.

"It's pretty rare," Suggs said of the scoring depth. "Diallo being athletic, Mario being able to shoot and rebound, Rob getting the assists and Matt hitting threes -- we're all just balancing out for each other."

The Royals head to Roseville for the conference rematch this Friday. They could meet yet again in the Section 4 tournament for big schools. If Woodbury finds a way to start playing a full 40 minutes, watch out.

"We're getting more used to each other and getting comfortable with each other," Suggs said. "Now we just have to finish strong."

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