Ely boys jump out to 2-0 start
by Tom Coombe
One was nothing like the other, but the Ely Timberwolves scored two wins to open the 2023-24 high school boys basketball season.
The Dec. 1 debut went down to the wire, with Ely holding off Hill City in the closing seconds to prevail 61-57.
Monday’s meeting with a depleted Floodwood team was no contest, as Ely kept the Polar Bears off the scoreboard in the first half and built a 65-0 lead in the second, on the way to an 87-13 rout.
More difficult contests await the Wolves, including Friday’s home game with Mesabi East and a pair of difficult challenges in the Dec. 28-29 home holiday tournament, but a young Ely team had its moments while starting the season with two wins.
“I thought we played well against an experienced Hill City team,” said Ely Head Coach Tom McDonald. “We struggled with them last season and they had most of that team back. I thought we played well enough offensively to win the game and I thought only having nine turnovers on the night was big for us.”
Clinging to a 58-57 lead late in the game, the Wolves also persevered on defense.
The Hornets misfired on two shots to take the lead, and the Wolves also came up with a steal as the Hornets came down the floor trailing by three with 12 seconds left.
Ely also overcame a difficult shooting night to come up with the win,
Junior Caid Chittum led the way, scoring 16 points with eight rebounds, while sophomore Drew Johnson made his first varsity start and added 14 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Ely’s top returning scorer from a year ago - sophomore guard Jack Davies - also reached double digits with 12 points.
The Wolves caught a break late in the contest when 6-3 Hill City junior Jacob Roper, who gave the hosts difficulty inside, fouled out of the game.
“We really struggled trying to contain their big kid but I thought Wyatt Mattson did a very nice job defending him in the post,” said McDonald. “We also had good contributions from all seven guys who played and I thought all three of the new starters (Johnson, Mattson and Wyatt Tedrick) did a nice job on both ends of the floor.”
Floodwood had several players missing on Monday because of illness and injury and the Polar Bears struggled mightily against the Wolves.
Ely scored at will early on and dropped back out of its pressure after scoring 20 quick points.
The Wolves led 44-0 at the half and the Ely reserves played nearly all of the second stanza.
Chittum had 21 first-half points, while Johnson finished the contest with 14.
Both Davies and Trenton Bishop added 10 points while freshman Leo McKrahl came off the bench to snare 11 rebounds.
Tedrick had eight rebounds and eight steals as Ely went to 2-0 and tuned up for Thursday night’s clash at International Falls, completed after deadline.
The Wolves host Mesabi East Friday and travel to Cook County Dec. 19.
“We are going to need to play better defensively against the stronger teams we have coming up on our schedule,” said McDonald. “We aren’t big but I thought we gave up too many easy baskets to Hill City inside and on the perimeter. Hopefully we can keep taking care of the ball and limit our turnovers.”