Hoops for Hope takes hold Friday

Annual girls basketball holiday tournament now in fifth season

by Tom Coombe
An idea for a community service project has, in five short years, taken on a life of its own.
Now in its fifth year, the Hoops for Hope Holiday Tournament has become a staple on Ely’s high school girls basketball calendar and a significant local fundraiser.
This year’s event is set for Thursday and Friday at the high school gymnasium, with four teams squaring off and raising money for the local Spiritwood Foundation in the process.
Hoops for Hope, in addition to raising money for a local cause, also raises awareness about Alzheimer’s Disease, one of several benefits from an event that started with an idea from Darren Visser, who took over as girls basketball coach in town and started the tournament in 2014.
“How it originally started was when I took over the program I wanted to get the girls involved in some sort of community service,” said Visser. “It hit our family and it was something that didn’t get a lot of attention, although now it’s gaining. We were just trying to do something different and help.”
That mission has been accomplished, with the tournament raising over $10,000 via sponsorships and donations in its short history.
All of the money has remained in the Ely area, with proceeds directed to the Spiritwood Foundation, which helps families of people stricken with the debilitating Alzheimer’s Disease.
Ely’s girls basketball players have already had a head start on their cause, selling baked goods last month and seeking out sponsors for this year’s tournament, which starts with Thursday’s 5:30 p.m. game between Northeast Range and Carlton.
The Wolves have taken an active role in raising money and have taken ownership of the event.
“For each one it hits different,” said Visser. “We’re getting more and more players that have had family members that are dealing with this.”
Sponsorships for the event will be accepted at the tournament, and anyone wanting to contribute in advance can contact Visser at 365-7065.
The Wolves (3-2) take on Wrenshall to close out Thursday’s opening round and the schedule gets flipped on
Friday, Dec. 28, with Wrenshall and Northeast Range meeting at 2 p.m. and the Wolves clashing with Carlton at 3:45 p.m.
• Ely climbed over the .500 mark with ease Monday, blowing out host Chisholm 87-37.
The Wolves showed no ill effects from a long layoff, returning to the hardcourt for the first time in 10 days with a dominant performance.
Junior Erika Mattson knocked down eight three-point baskets on the way to a 32-point evening, but classmate Brielle Kallberg was right behind with 23 points, 14 rebounds and eight steals on a 10-for-18 outing from the floor.
Senior Lida Dodge added eight points, four assists and four steals, and Winter Sainio contributed six points and five rebounds.