Bombs away for Ely boys; Three-point shooting should make for exciting season on court

by Tom Coombe -

Opponents of the Ely Timberwolves had better be ready to defend against the three-point shot.
Ely’s high school boys basketball team, which opens the 2017-18 campaign Tuesday against visiting Two Harbors, has no shortage of weapons heading into the new season.
Sophomore Patrick Vanderbeek, who set school records with 12 triples in a game and 128 for the season last winter, is just one of the three-point bombers in longtime head coach Tom McDonald’s arsenal.
Senior guard Carter Gaulke, who hit the 1,000-point mark for his career in part one three-pointer at a time, is back for an encore and classmate Adam McDonald is raring to go - and fire away from long-range - after missing much of his junior year with an injury.
The three-point shooting should provide for an exciting brand of basketball for Ely fans, and create headaches for Ely opponents as the Wolves look to match or exceed a 19-win campaign from last year.
“We don’t have a lot of size and we don’t have a lot of depth, so I think our game has been the perimeter,” said Tom McDonald, who has led the Ely program since 1990. “We’re hoping to mix it up and get our guards in the lane a little more, but I think we will still be a perimeter team.”
The 5-6 Vanderbeek had an electrifying debut in the Ely lineup, scoring about 17 points per game and shooting at-will from beyond the three-point line. Ely seemed to play its best basketball when Vanderbeek was on.
“I think when he shot well we played well,” said Tom McDonald. “We hope this year he won’t just be a three-point shooter that can be taken away by a team that plays good defense.”
Gaulke, a 5-10 point guard, has played extensively since his freshman season and averaged 18 points, six rebounds and five assists per game as a junior.
“He is so heady on the floor,” Tom McDonald said of his senior. “He handles the ball well and shoots better.”
Adam McDonald, the coach’s youngest son, adds another dimension to the Ely offense. If opponents focus on Vanderbeek and Gaulke, McDonald could burn them from beyond the arc.
“He gives us another threat outside and inside I think,” said Tom McDonald.
While guard play figures to be a strength for the Wolves, senior Blaise Lah could hold the key to Ely’s success.
The 6-3 senior will handle the bulk of the duties underneath the hoop, hoping to provide some rebounds - and scoring -for an undersized team.
“I think he could be a double-double guy,” said Tom McDonald. “We’re not very big so he’s going to have to anchor our rebounding, but I think he’s capable of scoring also.”
Trevor Mattson, a 6-1 junior, rounds out Ely’s starting five to open the season and steps up to the varsity lineup after plenty of success in baseball, where he helped pitch the Wolves to a state tournament appearance.
Another three-point shooter, sophomore Eric Omerza, figures to be the first player off the bench while junior Jasiah Wigdahl and sophomore Dylan Fenske should be busy reserves.
Sophomores Nils DeRemee and Bryce Longwell, along with freshmen Will Davies, Emmett Faltesek and Brock LaTourell round out the varsity roster.
Ely joins the rest of a crowded group of Section 7A teams chasing defending champion Northwoods, which has four starters back from a team that reached the Class A state finals.
“Northwoods is pretty much untouchable in the section,” said Tom McDonald. “I’m hoping we’re competitive with most everybody else. I think we should be competitive with everybody else. We’ll see how it goes. I think we have good guards who can handle the ball, but our lack of size and depth could hurt us.”

Ely Wolves Boys Basketball
2017-18 Schedule

Dec. 5: Two Harbors, 1:30 p.m.
Dec. 8: Int. Falls
Dec. 9: at Hill City, 3 p.m.
Dec. 15: Northwoods
Dec. 21: Lake of the Woods, 6 p.m.
Dec. 28: Upsala (Ely Tourney),
7:15 p.m.
Dec 29: Cook County or Walker
(Ely Tourney), 4:30 or 6:15 p.m.
Jan. 4: Silver Bay
Jan. 5: Northeast Range
Jan. 9: Greenway
Jan. 12: Nash.-Kee.
Jan. 13: at Cook County, 2:45 p.m..
Jan. 16: at Bigfork
Jan. 19: at Mt. Iron-Buhl
Jan. 20: Dul. Marshall, 4 p.m.
Jan. 23: at Fond du Lac
Jan. 26: Littlefork-Big Falls
Feb. 2: Eveleth-GIlbert
Feb. 5: Cherry
Feb. 9: at Mesabi East.
Feb. 13: Lakeview Christian
Feb. 16 at Chisholm
Feb. 20: Mt. Iron-Buhl
Feb. 23: at South Ridge, 5:45 p.m.
Feb. 27; at Hibbing
Mar. 2: at Northeast Range
Game time 7:15 pm unless noted