Wolves return to court; Vanderbeek anchors nucleus for last year’s 7A runners-up

by Tom Coombe -

Some key parts are missing.
Some key pieces are back.
After 25 wins and a section runner-up finish in 2017-18, Ely’s high school boys basketball team will combine old and new, and try to fill some noticeable voids as it begins a new season this week at Two Harbors.
Part of the starting lineup and a few who contributed off the bench will form a nucleus for the Timberwolves, who are led by longtime head coach Tom McDonald.
Heading the list of returnees is senior Patrick Vanderbeek, one of the most dynamic shooters in northeastern Minnesota.
Vandebeek set a school record with 152 three-point baskets a year ago, en route to averaging nearly 19 points per night.
But the Wolves are missing the other half of a backcourt that was one of the best in Section 7A, following the graduation of Carter Gaulke, who amassed nearly 1,700 points and developed into a floor leader in four years as a starter.
Ely will also miss strength inside with the graduation of Blaise Lah.
“We are going to need to develop some depth and I think the key is staying healthy and eligible,” said McDonald, who has coached in Ely since 1990. “We lost two really important players from last season and it will be really difficult trying to replace them. Carter Gaulke did everything for us on the floor and was a great leader for us and Blaise Lah was an excellent interior defender and rebounder for us.”
Vanderbeek, however, gives the Wolves a leg up on the competition.
The 5-6 guard can seemingly score from anywhere on the floor and could carry the Wolves a long way, but he’ll also adust to a new spot on the floor this season as he handles point guard duties.
“Pat will take over the point guard role and it will be an entirely different role for him after being the player who just shot threes in the past,” said McDonald. “Hopefully he can run the offense and get the ball to where it is needed.”
Vanderbeek won’t be the only scorer in the Ely lineup.
Senior Trevor Mattson can score inside and out, while junior Dylan Fenske emerged last year as a viable scoring threat.
Rounding out the starting five to open the season are two seniors who will be counted on to secure rebounds and patrol the paint.
Collen Seliskar and Jasiah Wigdahl move from their spots on the offensive and defensive lines on the Ely football team to forward positions in basketball.
“I think we have the players that will be able to score on the offensive end but our main concern right now is finding guys who will be able to stop people on the defensive side,” said McDonald.
Junior guard Eric Omerza, who averaged five points per game last winter, will come off the bench and McDonald will look to several others in an effort to build depth.
Seniors Alex Motes and Charley Dammann, exchange students Finn Liesching and Tymur Moskalyk, juniors Bryce Longwell and Nils DeRemee and sophomores Emmett Faltesek, Will Davies and Brock LaTourell are all vying for playing time.
Once again this winter, the Wolves and the rest of Section 7A will be chasing perennial powerhouse North Woods.
The Grizzlies blew out the Wolves in last year’s 7A title tilt and have finished second in the state the last two winters.
After going 31-2 last season, North Woods enters the season ranked third in Class A and has one of the best guards in the state in senior Cade Goggleye. The Wolves and the Grizzlies clash Dec. 14 at Ely.
A 25-game Ely schedule incudes 13 home dates, with a holiday tournament set for Dec. 28-29.

Ely Wolves Boys Basketball
2018-19 Schedule
Dec. 4: at Two Harbors
Dec. 7: at Int. Falls
Dec. 8: Hill City, 2:45 p.m.
Dec. 11: Silver Bay
Dec. 14: North Woods
Dec. 21: at Lake of the Woods, 6:p.m.
Dec. 28: Isle (Ely Tourney),
7:15 p.m.
Dec 29: Cook County or Bigfork
(Ely Tourney), 2:45 p.m.
Jan. 4: at Silver Bay
Jan. 8: at Greenway
Jan. 11: at Nash.-Kee.
Jan. 15: Bigfork
Jan. 18: Mt. Iron-Buhl
Jan. 19: at Dul. Marshall, 4 p.m.
Jan. 22: Fond du Lac
Jan. 25: at LIttlefork-Big Falls
Jan 29; Cook County
Feb. 1: at Eveleth-GIlbert
Feb. 4: at Cherry
Feb. 8: Mesabi East
Feb. 12: at Lakeview Christian (at Cotton(
Feb. 15: Chisholm
Feb. 19: at Mt. Iron-Buhl
Feb. 22: South Ridge
Mar. 1: at Wrenshall
Game time 7:15 pm unless noted