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Seeding at play down the stretch for Ely boys

Photos by Eric Sherman

by Tom Coombe

The Ely Timberwolves could climb up.

Or they might drop down.

The stakes for the high school boys basketball team as it winds down the regular season include its playoff seed, the potential for home-court advantage when the tournament begins in early-March, and the caliber of its first-round opponent.

A Friday night home game with Chisholm, which is neck-and-neck with the Wolves in the Section 7A rankings, was completed after deadline and is certain to loom large once seeding is complete in two weeks.

A Feb. 24 home date with South Ridge and a road contest the following Friday at Fond du Lac both also figure to be pivotal for the Wolves, who are currently sixth among 18 teams in the section.

The top-eight are assured of home-court advantage for March 9 first-round contests.

“I think our next three Friday games will make or break our season,” said Ely Head Coach Tom McDonald. “We could be seeded as high as five and as low as eight depending on how those three games go.”

None of the contests figure to be easy for the Wolves, particularly the date with a much-taller South Ridge team.

“I think each team presents different problems,” said McDonald. “Chisholm is very athletic and balanced across their lineup. South Ridge has size that nobody else in the area has and Fond du Lac has a good balance of size and shooters.  We will have to play well defensively to be able to beat all of them and we also will need to shoot the ball well  and limit our turnovers. We have been pretty good this year at limiting the number of turnovers per game and we will need to continue that to have any success as the season winds down.”

Ely (16-5) is no slouch itself and has been fueled by tremendous guard play throughout the winter.

Leading the way is two-time All-Arrowhead Conference honoree Joey Bianco.

The Ely senior had another big game as the Wolves demolished Mesabi East 81-40 in a Feb. 10, Winter Frolic week matchup.

Bianco was three rebounds shy of a triple-double and paced the Wolves with 25 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds.

Ely also got a boost from senior Erron Anderson. The forward stepped outside to nail a three-point basket and scored a career-high 17 points with 10 rebounds.

Freshman Jack Davies and sophomore Caid Chittum both had 10 points for the Wolves, and senior Jason Kerntz dished out six assists.

With the win, Ely completed a regular season sweep of the Class AA Giants, with both games going into running time.

So far, 11 of Ely’s 16 wins have been in running time, which occurs in the final nine minutes of play with a margin of 35 points or more on the scoreboard.

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