Girls build with talented nucleus

by Tom Coombe
The Ely Timberwolves won’t be the largest team in Section 7A - whether in number or height.
But section opponents would be ill advised to look past an Ely high school girls basketball team that’s looking to take a significant step forward this winter, despite some obstacles that have been thrown the Wolves’ way.
Ely, which made its 2021-22 debut Thursday night after deadline at Nashwauk-Keewatin, has several key players back from a team that went 8-10 during a Covid-19-disrupted 2020-21 season.
The Wolves’ lineup has also been bolstered by the return of junior Madeline Perry, who averaged more than 10 points per game during her freshman year but missed her sophomore campaign. She joins All-Arrowhead Conference honorable mention selection Grace LaTourell and fellow sophomore Sarah Visser, both sophomore guards, in forming what appears to be a solid nucleus.
Yet both depth and height loom as challenges for the Wolves. Several potential contributors who got varsity time a season ago opted not to come out this season, leaving second-year head coach Max Gantt with a roster of only 10 active players in grades 8-12.
Gantt seems to be taking the adversity in stride and has high hopes for this group.
“Skillwise we are starting at a much higher point than last year, which is really nice,” said Gantt. “We work really hard. We return experience from last year, even though we’re not an older team.”
LaTourell has developed into a three-point shooting threat and averaged about 14 points per contest. Along with Visser, who already has loads of varsity experience and has emerged as a defensive specialist of sorts, the Wolves have a talented and experienced backcourt - despite their relative youth.
Perry adds another dimension to the Wolves’ lineup and brings strength on the boards, athleticism and the ability to put the ball in the basket.
“Having Madeline Perry back is going to be really nice, even team chemistry wise it’s going to be good to have her back,” said Gantt. ‘It will be good for our scoring and having Grace and Sarah too.”
Perry, LaTourell and Visser are part of a starting five that for now also includes juniors Madeline Kallberg and Madison Rohr, who both worked their way into the varsity rotation last season. Senior Ande Visser also returns, has previous varsity experience and will provide some height and rebounding to a team that overall lacks in size.
“That starting five, Madison, Sarah and Grace, and Madeline and Madeline will hopefully pack a punch and any of them can score,” said Gantt. “And Ande Visser gives us some toughness that we need. It’s been good to have her back as well.”
Juniors Lily Tedrick and Elizabeth Omerza will come off the bench for the Wolves, while ninth-grader Clare Thomas and eighth-grader Zoe Mackenzie will see varsity time as part of a small roster.
“We don’t have a ton of depth but everyone we have is ready to play,” said Gantt. “I think we should be in the upper half of the section. Our goal should be to try and compete with everyone, win our first playoff game and go from there. Everybody is excited to have a full schedule this year.”
The Wolves open with three straight road contests and make their home debut on Friday, Dec. 10 against International Falls.
The home docket also includes the annual Hoops for Hope Holiday Tournament, set for Dec. 27-28.