Rugged stretch on, off court; Illness, difficult foes form potent combination against Ely girls

by Tom Coombe -

Several bouts with the flu and perhaps the toughest stretch of the season made for a difficult combination for Ely’s high school girls basketball team.
In the span of four days, Bigfork and Duluth Marshall both scored lopsided wins over the Timberwolves, who have now lost three consecutive games.
Bigfork pulled away for a 60-35 victory over visiting Ely on Tuesday, while Duluth Marshall ran roughshod at home in an 83-59 Saturday afternoon matinee.
The Wolves (8-7) have battled through illness during this rugged stretch, playing at less than full strength and missing as many as six players from grades 7-12 at times during the week.
“Right now we are in the toughest part of our schedule and we are working hard at getting our team back to full strength,” said Ely Head Coach Darren Visser. “ We have had a couple of rough games but we will continue to work hard in practice and improve as a team.”
The Wolves committed 21 turnovers at Bigfork, which together with a shooting performance of 30 percent made for a difficult night.
Juniors Erika Mattson and Brielle Kallberg continued to lead the way for the Wolves. Both had double-doubles with Mattson pouring in 12 points with 10 rebounds and Kallberg coming up with a 12-point, 13-rebound and four-assist evening.
In the paint, junior center Winter Sainio scored seven points with three rebounds.
The Wolves had no answer for Duluth Marshall’s duo of Grace Kirk and Gianna Kneepkens on Saturday.
They scored all but five of the Hilltoppers’ first-half points and combined for 67 in the game, with Kirk scoring 40 and Kneepkens finishing with 27, including 21 in the opening half.
It looked at first as if the Wolves would be blown out of the gym as the Hilltopppers jumped to an 11-0 lead in the first two minutes, but the Wolves weathered the storm.
Mattson, who had a team-high 24 points with 12 rebounds, found the range from the outside and the Wolves pulled back to within three points at 16-13.
Duluth Marshall had too much firepower, however, as Kirk and Kneepkens proved to be a potent one-two combination.
Kallberg wound up with 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists for the Wolves, and Sainio had eight points and five rebounds.
Two seventh-graders, Grace LaTourell and Sarah Visser, started for the illness-depleted Wolves and contributed in their minutes on the floor. They combined for seven rebounds and had two points each.
Ely was set to take on Duluth Denfeld Friday and hosts Cook County as part of a girls-and-boys doubleheader Tuesday, Jan. 29. The girls game starts at 5 p.m.
“With the great kids we have I know they will just continue to work and get better,” said Visser.