Hoops for the holidays

by Tom Coombe

As usual, Ely’s high school basketball teams won’t have to go far to get some games during the holiday break.<BR><BR>Only a drive to the high school gymnasium is in order for members of both the Timberwolves’ boys and girls squads, who host opponents from around the area in the 12th Annual Ely Holiday Tournament.<BR><BR>The three-day, 12-game event tips off at 1 p.m. today and by the time it ends early Thursday evening, eight teams - four boys and four girls - will have played three games each.<BR><BR>For the last decade-plus, the tournament has been a staple on the Ely schedule.<BR><BR>The field has changed steadily over the years, and this year’s event includes a mix of returning and new squads.<BR><BR>Lake of the Woods returns to the girls tournament this year and joins holdovers Eveleth-Gilbert and Cromwell along with the host Timberwolves.<BR><BR>On the boys’ side, Two Harbors and Cromwell are both back while Mesabi Academy replaces Blackduck.<BR><BR>Both Ely squads are looking to gain momentum as they head toward the meat of their respective schedules.<BR><BR>The Ely boys are 3-2, with losses to Virginia and Tower-Soudan, two of the better teams in northeastern Minnesota.<BR><BR>The Timberwolves’ tougest tournament test could be their first. Two Harbors pounded Ely twice last season - once in the holiday tournament and the second time in a 73-47 decision in the Section 7AA playoffs.<BR><BR>The Agates are 4-3, including wins against Class AAA Cloquet and Duluth Central.<BR><BR>Cromwell is 2-4 while first-time tourney entrant Mesabi Academy - a boys school based in Buhl - has traditionally struggled against area foes.<BR><BR>The girls tournament may be Cromwell’s to lose.<BR><BR>The Cardinals have won five of their first six games and return Kelcie Smith, one of the region’s top players. Cromwell joins Barnum, Tower-Soudan and Mt. Iron-Buhl as potential favorites in Section 7A.<BR><BR>Ely is off to a 3-2 start and is getting a scoring boost from ninth-grader Tomi McDonald, a first-year starter. The Wolves’ two losses came in their last two contests and followed injuries to starters Jackie Lekatz and Kelsey Ivancich. Their status is questionable for the weekend.<BR><BR>Cook is a perennial power in Section 7A and the Little Gophers have just two losses going into the tournament.<BR><BR>Eveleth-Gilbert is 2-3 and looking to rise in Section 7AA, while Lake of the Woods has struggled early in the season, losing its first four games.<BR><BR>Admission to tournament games is $5 for adults, $3 for students, for each two-game session.<BR><BR> 2004 Ely Holiday Tournament Schedule<BR><BR>Tuesday<BR><BR>1:00 p.m. - Eveleth-Gilbert vs. Cromwell (Girls)<BR><BR>2:45 p.m. - Ely vs. Lake of the Woods (Girls)<BR><BR>6:00 p.m. - Cromwell vs. Mesabi Academy<BR><BR>7:45 p.m. - Ely vs. Two Harbors (Boys)<BR><BR>Wednesday<BR><BR>1:00 p.m. -Lake of the Woods vs. Eveleth-Gilbert (Girls)<BR><BR>2:45 p.m. - Ely vs. Cromwell (Girls)<BR><BR>6:00 p.m. -Two Harbors vs. Mesabi Academy (Boys)<BR><BR>7:45 p.m. - Ely vs. Cromwell (Boys)<BR><BR>Thursday<BR><BR>10:00 a.m. - Lake of the Woods vs. Cromwell (Girls)<BR><BR>11:45 a.m. - Two Harbors vs. Cromwell (Boys)<BR><BR>2:15 p.m. - Ely vs. Eveleth-Gilbert (Girls)<BR><BR>4:00 p.m. - Ely vs. Mesabi Academy (Boys)<BR><BR>