Ely girls look to rebuild

by Tom Coombe

Ely’s high school girls basketball team has some holes to fill.<BR><BR>The graduation of their top scorers and rebounders - a nucleus anchored by 2004 graduates Gena Jerich, Lauren Klun and Lara Doran - leaves a sizeable void for the Timberwolves as they start the 2004-2005 campaign Tuesday night against International Falls.<BR><BR>When they head out onto their home floor for the opening tip against the Broncos, the Wolves won’t look much like the team that went 15-10 a year ago.<BR><BR>Only one regular - senior Jackie Lekatz - returns.<BR><BR>Another senior who got plenty of playing time a year ago, senior Candice Smrekar - hasn’t joined the team yet because she’s competing this week in the state high school diving meet.<BR><BR>Two other seniors also appear set for prominent roles this winter.<BR><BR>At 5-11, senior Angie Mackie is the tallest of the Ely players. The Wolves will look to her for help on the boards, points in the paint and help in the middle of the defense.<BR><BR>Christa Streit provided valuable minutes as a reserve a year ago and is looking to step up.<BR><BR>Junior Kelsey Ivancich and sophomore Barb Klun split time between the varsity and B-squads a year ago. Both guards will step into the varsity rotation on a full-time basis.<BR><BR>And when the Wolves need instant offense, ninth-grader Tomi McDonald may fill the bill. She was impressive in a scrimmage against Vermiliion last Monday and may be the team’s most potent outside shooter.<BR><BR>Several other sophomores and juniors will try and get into the mix for the Wolves and coach Judy Klun, who begins the second year of her second stint on the job.<BR><BR>Longtime assistant coach Frank Ivancich also returns, with Tom Omerza and JoLynn Arntz handling the junior high teams.<BR><BR>The varsity fell 21-19 to Cherry in a two-quarter mini-game Tuesday, part of a jamboree at Babbitt.<BR><BR>The Wolves play mostly Class A teams during the regular season, but they remain in the AA division this year, which means they’ll face larger schools such as Hermantown, Eveleth-Gilbert, Two Harbors, Crosby-Ironton and Virginia come playoff time.<BR><BR>The 23-game regular season grind starts with International Falls, a tough Class AA opponent, and includes 11 home contests.