Wolves play for trip to state after beating Wrenshall

Ely vs. North Woods 7 p.m. in Hibbing

SMILES ALL AROUND - With a lopsided playoff victory in hand, Ely Head Coach Tom McDonald cracked a smile on the bench and laughed along with Wolves Patrick Vanderbeek, Carter Gaulke, Dylan Fenske and Collen Seliskar. Photos by Eric Sherman

Echo staff report -

The Ely boys basketball team will play in a Section 7A championship game Saturday in Hibbing.
The Wolves earned their first trip back to the finals since 2001 with a 73-51 win over Wrenshall Thursday night.
Senior Carter Gaulke led all scorers with 26 points, Patrick Vanderbeek had 25 including seven 3’s, Eric Omerza put in eight, Trevor Mattson and Dylan Fenske each had four points while Blaise Lah, Jasiah Wigdahl and Alex Motes each had two points.
Ely, 25-4, is expected to face North Woods at 7 p.m. Saturday night in Hibbing. North Woods was heavily favored to beat Lakeview Christian Academy.
Ely burst out of the gates early and led 23-8. Outside shooting was the key for the Wolves, led by Vanderbeek and Gaulke.
When Ely went to its bench, Wrenshall clawed back and cut the lead to 11 at 26-15 with 5:35 to go in the first half.
The Wrens cut the lead to eight, 27-19, with 1:44 to go in the half and Ely head coach Tom McDonald took a 30-second time out.
Vanderbeek canned a three to make it 30-19 but Wrenshall answered with a three of their own.
Ely used an offensive rebound to hold the ball until the end of the first half but couldn’t capitalize.
It was Ely 30, Wrenshall 22 at halftime but the Wrens cut the lead to six with a quick basket in the second half.
But Ely battled back and ran off nine straight points including a two pointer from Omerza and a basket from Trevor Mattson on a dish from Gaulke.
A 22-foot triple from Vanderbeek continued the run and Ely was up by 18.
The Wrens took a time out with the score 42-24.
The teams traded baskets and it was Ely up 50-32 but Vanderbeek drove and scored to put the Wolves up by 20.
Ely went up 57-33 with seven minutes to play and went on to wrap the win over the Wrens who finished 27-3.
Ely had 10 three pointers on the night and outrebounded Wrenshall 38-20.
Saturday’s expected final against North Woods is a rematch of an early-season matchup won by the Grizzlies 87-59.
Ely was competitive with North Woods for much of that contest, trailing by only 11 points with nine minutes to go before the powerful Grizzlies closed with a big run. Senior sharpshooter Tate Olson had 36 points in that game and the Grizzlies hit 15 three-point baskets.
North Woods has only one loss this season - to Class AA Virginia - and the Grizzlies have four starters back from the team that finished second in Class A last March.
Ely not only will be out for an upset but out to make history in the 7A final.
The Wolves’ last 7A title game appearance was in 2001, when Ely downed Bigfork to claim the school’s only state tournament appearance in the last half-century.
While Ely made the state tournament in 2001, the appearance did not result in the customary trip to the Twin Cities.
That Ely team, led by guard Adam Rannels and center Reed Petersen, earned a state berth when first-round games were held at neutral sites outstate.
The ’01 Wolves traveled to Brainerd and lost to Hillcrest Lutheran Academy in the quarterfinals.
The boys basketball team also advanced to state in 1929 and 1945, when the Wolves placed second.