OAK PARK HEIGHTS — Stillwater averted a potential blowout and then nearly won the game before falling to Woodbury 56-55 in Friday’s Suburban East Conference boys’ basketball game at Stillwater Area High School.
The Ponies (7-5 SEC, 13-6) rallied after trailing by as many 24 points late in the first half — pulling within 54-53 with nine seconds remaining — but couldn’t complete the comeback while falling short against the eighth-ranked Royals (10-2, 17-3), who moved into a tie atop the conference standings following Roseville’s (10-2, 16-4) 16-point loss at Cretin-Derham Hall.
Woodbury, which has won 10 in a row since losing to the Ponies 88-71 on Jan. 4, used a 22-2 run midway through the first half to take a 32-8 lead. Joe Quinn hit a 3-pointer and made a steal and lay-up in the final two minutes to trim the deficit to 34-15 at the break.
“We blew that one the first half and the kids know it,” Ponies coach Randy Jordan said. “I mean, we didn’t have any energy. We’ve got to come ready to play and we weren’t ready.”
Stillwater responded in the second half, however, while using a 20-6 run to pull within 40-35 with 12:15 remaining. Quinn, who finished with a game-high 21 points, scored six points during that stretch and Tony Lennox hit two 3-pointers to help spur the comeback. Chad Schlosser also scored four of his six points during that span.
“I just told them we have to come out with some pride,” said Jordan, who turned the lights out for a more reflexive than raucous halftime discussion. “I said you guys are better than this, play for yourselves and play for your school.
“I think Quinn and Schlosser gave us the most energy the second half. They did a nice job of cleaning up the boards for us and that’s what beat us the first half. (Woodbury) didn’t shoot very well, we held their two leading scorers to one bucket each the first half. We should have been ahead, but those other three beat us on the boards.”
The Ponies pulled within 44-42 on an old-fashioned three-point play by Matt Anderson and another basket by Quinn, but Diallo Powell helped the Royals maintain a slim lead.
Stillwater did not help its cause at the free throw line, connecting on just 6 of 13 attempts while Matt Ambriz sank four in a row in the final 45 seconds for the Royals. Aaron Romportl scored with nine seconds remaining to pull within 54-53, but Ambriz hit two more free throws and the Ponies misfired on a three-point attempt before scoring the offensive reboudn at the buzzer.
“It takes a lot of energy out of you,” Jordan said of the comeback efforts. “It’s really hard to be able to finish by doing that. The kids did a nice job and we had a shot to tie and we had a chance to get a lead. I thought the kids executed well the second half when they took their time and were patient. We definitely could have used a littel bit more energy, but the kids showed a lot more the second half than we did the first half.”
After thoroughly beating the Royals earlier this season, Stillwater anticipated a tougher game this time around and the Royals didn’t disappoint.
“Oh yeah, we knew they wre going to bring energy after the first game and they definitely played a lot better defense tonight than they did the first time,” Jordan said. “We had good looks, but just couldn’t buy a bucket to start the ballgame and what really hurt was giving them the offensive boards, the second and third shots. I can handle the missed shots and not shooting well, but I can’t handle giving up offensive rebounds. I’m proud of the way the kids came back the second half, we just got too far behind.”
Woodbury 34 22 — 56
Stillwater 15 40 — 55
Woodbury (pts): Renard Suggs 10, Robert Claypool 6, Matt Ambriz 11, Diallo Powell 15, Charlie Olson 3 and Mario Franco 11.
Stillwater: Sam Lagus 2, Aaron Romportl 9, Andrew Duxbury 4, Tony Lennox 6, Joe Quinn 21, Matt Anderson 7 and Chad Schlosser 6.
3-pointers: Wo (3): Olson, Suggs and Ambriz; St (5): Romportl, Quinn 2 and Lennox 2.
Free throws: Wo, 10-14; St, 6-13.
Fouls: Wo, 10; St, 11.
Fouled out: None.