Wolves fade in second half

Ely goes cold as North Woods rallies for 7A semifinal victory

by Tom Coombe
An untimely drought spoiled the Ely Timberwolves’ bid for a drmatic playoff upset Wednesday night.
Leading 55-47 with 11 minutes to go, the Wolves would score only one basket the rest of the way and three-time defending champion North Woods went on a 25-2 run to pull out a 72-57 Section 7A boys basketball semifinal win at the Hibbing Memorial Arena.
“We outplayed them until the end,” said Ely Head Coach Tom McDonald.
Ely, which finished 23-6, led 43-36 at the half and by as many as 13 points early in the game.
A Will Davies three-pointer gave the Wolves an eight-point lead at 55-47, but the Wolves went cold while the second-seeded Grizzlies went inside, to senior center Trevor Morrison and talented junior Darius Goggleye.
They combined for 23 of their 38 points in the second half, many in the decisive run that included a Goggleye bucket that put the Grizzlies ahead to stay at 56-55.
The Wolves, who knocked off Mt. Iron-Buhl four days earlier to reach the final four, went more than seven minutes without a point during the critical stretch, and never scored again after junior Emmett Faltesek’s hoop made it a five-point game at 62-57.
Ely missed on several close attempts late in the game and misfired from long-rang as well, while the patient Grizzlies made the most of their height advantage.
The Wolves were five-for-31 from the floor in the second half.
“I think we got tired on the defensive end and allowed too many easy ones late,” said McDonald. “But we just couldn’t buy a basket on the other end and I think every shot we took was a good shot.”
Goggleye scored 20 points to pace North Woods, while Morrison followed with 14 and guards T.J. Chiabotti and Jared Chiabotti contributed 14 and 11 points, respectively.
Senior Eric Omerza and Faltesek both had 12 points for the Wolves, while senior Dylan Fenske and Davies were next with 11 apiece.
Early on, it was all-Wolves, as they connected from long range and scored in transition.
It was 14-7 Ely early on and a Fenske steal and basket made it 22-9, igniting a large Wolves’ crowd.
Omerza, Faltesek, Davies and freshman Joey Bianco all made three-point baskets in the first half, while Morrison got in some early foul trouble.
Morrison came back off the bench after the Wolves opened a double-digit advantage, but the pace of the game was in Ely’s favor.
The Wolves traded bombs with the Grizzlies and kept the pace in their favor, but a turnover while Ely was playing for one shot at the end of the half led to a North Woods basket and a 43-36 game at the break.
• North Woods was scheduled to meet Nashwauk-Keewatin Friday night in Hibbing for the 7A title, but attendance was restricted to media and only a limited number of school-approved spectators, because of Coronavirus concerns.
• The Wolves jumped out to a 10-0 lead in Saturday’s quarterfinal and weathered a mini-storm in the second half en route to downing Mt. Iron-Buhl 73-58.
Fenske paced the Wolves with 20 points, and Ely led 37-24.
The sixth-seeded Rangers hit 11 three-point bombs in the contest and pulled to within four points at 48-44, but Ely bounced back with a run of its own to put the contest out of reach.
Omerza poured in 16 points for the Wolves,followed by Brock LaTourell with 15 and Faltesek with 12.
MIB got 19 points from freshman Asher Zubich.