Ely boys on a hot streak

by Tom Coombe
The Ely Timberwolves may be surging at just the right time.
Heading into a key stretch that will almost certainly determine their playoff seed, the high school boys basketball team has won three straight contests, including a 70-51 home win over Lakeview Christian Academy on Tuesday night.
Junior Joey Bianco had 28 points and 12 rebounds for the Wolves and inched closer to his 1,000th career point during the win, Ely’s 13th of the year.
Bianco also helped kickstart the victory streak, sinking two free throws with one second left as Ely (13-8) rallied to stun Class AA Mesabi East 59-58 in a Feb. 11 road encounter.
The Wolves also got a triple-double from Bianco and a career-high 37 points by senior Harry Simons in Saturday’s 92-55 rout at Carlton.
Ely met Chisholm Friday night to begin a pivotal series of games that also includes a Feb. 22 home rematch with Mt. Iron-Buhl and a Feb. 25 road date with South Ridge.
The Wolves are angling to get into the top-eight in the section and secure a home playoff date when the Section 7A tournament begins Mar. 9, but it may be a tall order, according to head coach Tom McDonald.
“Getting into the top 8 will be hard to do,” said McDonald. “ I do think we will have to win two out of the next three to do it. NK has the tiebreaker over us so it might be hard to get ahead of them. I think we are going to have to be consistent on both ends of the floor. If we don’t shoot well we will struggle the next three games and we will need to defend and rebound against these teams as they are big and athletic. We are playing well right now so hopefully we can string together some good games against three quality opponents.”
The win at Mesabi East was a big bounce-back effort for the Wolves, who were hammered by section favorite Deer River only three nights earlier.
Ely overcame the Giants’ height advantage and the play of 6-4 senior Cody Fallstrom, who scored 26 points.
The teams traded the lead and momentum and Ely got the ball back after Fallstrom made one-of-two free throws to put the Giants up 58-57.
A wild scramble led to a held ball and Ely’s possession with four seconds left, and McDonald set up a play for Bianco, who was fouled by Fallstrom with one second left.
Bianco, who has struggled at the line at times this winter, calmly sank both to put the Wolves ahead and the Giants never got a shot off in the final second.
It was one of Ely’s most balanced outings of the year, with Bianco, Jason Kerntz, Mason Davis and Simons all scoring in double figures. Eighth-grader Jack Davies came off the bench to add eight points and junior Erron Anderson helped secure rebounds underneath.
Bianco had 10 rebounds and was an assist shy of a triple-double, while Simons had five assists.
Bianco poured in 21 points, with 16 assists and 10 rebounds as Ely dominated at Carlton. The Wolves put up 56 first-half points to lead 56-29 and never looked back.
Simons couldn’t miss early on as he drained six first-half three-pointers and had 27 in points overall in the opening half. He had eighth long-range bombs during the contest.
Davis had 10 of his career-high 15 points in the opening half, with Kerntz notching 10 points and Davies winding up with eight.
Ely pulled away late in the first half and easily absorbed a second-half Lions run in Tuesday’s triumph over LCA.
Bianco attacked the Lions’ defense with drives to the hoop on the way to his 28-point night and he also reached double digits in rebounds and dished off seven assists.
Simons scored 20 points and Davis hit a pair of first-half triples and wound up with 14 points for the night. Davies finished with six points and Anderson snared seven rebounds.