Wolves cruise in opener

Bianco, Simons combine for 41; test with Cherry looms Friday

by Tom Coombe
Ely’s high school boys basketball team had an easy time of it in the season-opener, but more difficult challenges await.
The Timberwolves held Hill City without a field goal for more than nine minutes and built a big lead early on en route to a 61-31 home victory.
Guards Joey Bianco and Harry Simons combined for 41 points for the Wolves, who are retooling their lineup after the graduation of three senior starters.
While the overmatched Hornets didn’t put up much of a fight, the Wolves will face obstacles soon enough.
A road meeting with Class AA International Falls was completed after the Echo’s Thursday deadline and a Dec. 17 home showdown looms with Cherry, one of the top contenders in Section 7A.
The Tigers won handily against Ely in a late-season game last March, and they opened this season with a victory over defending 7A titlist Deer River.
“Cherry will be a tough match up for us as they are so athletic and bigger than us,” said McDonald. “ I am just hoping to be able to compete with them.”
The Wolves will also be shorthanded after Simons, one of Ely’s two returning starters, suffered a broken hand earlier this week and is out indefinitely.
Ely was at full strength for the Saturday afternoon opener, and the hosts put away any doubt early on.
It was 23-2 before Hill City got its first field goal, and the Wolves forced nearly 20 first-half turnovers while limiting the Hornets to just 11 points.
Ely had its own struggles, particularly from the outside, but it was in many ways a typical season-opener.
“I thought we played well enough for the first game,” said McDonald. “It was a bit sloppy at times which is to be expected for the first game. It was nice to jump out to the big lead early.”
The second stanza included more of the same and the Wolves built a lead of better than 35 points, sending the contest into running time with about six minutes left.
Bianco, an All-Arrowhead Conference performer last year, opened his junior year by flirting with a triple-double.
In addition to 22 points, Bianco had 10 rebounds and seven assists.
Simons finished with 19 points while junior Jason Kerntz, making his first varsity start, recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Junior forward Erron Anderson also added six points for Ely, which hosts Two Harbors at 2:45 p.m. Saturday and visits Silver Bay on Tuesday.