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Three-point storm does in Ely

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Northland hits 21 long-range bombs in Section 7A quarterfinals

by Tom Coombe

For the second straight season, Northland had the Ely Timberwolves’ number.

The venue was different and it was one round further in the Section 7A high school boys basketball tournament, but just as they did a year ago, the Eagles buried Ely with an avalanche of three-point shots.

Senior Alex Wake hit nine of them in the first half, and third-seeded Northland rolled to a 93-59 win over the Wolves in quarterfinal action Saturday afternoon at Duluth Denfeld.

Ely, which was seeded sixth and finished 20-8, had little chance against a Northland team that hit a whopping 21 three-point baskets.

Wake hit bomb after bomb in the first half and the Wolves couldn’t keep up.

Northland put the game away early, building leads of 19-4 and 27-9.

Wake had 29 first-half points as the Eagles built a 54-22 lead by halftime and essentially ended the contest.

“Northland was a big matchup problem for us and I haven’t seen anyone shoot as well as they did in the game Saturday,” said Ely Head Coach Tom McDonald. “They hit 21 threes and it was seven different guys hitting them. We knew that our only chance against them was if they didn’t shoot well.”

Northland hit 14 triples in an 87-33 playoff victory over the Wolves a year ago, and the Eagles had an improbably better day from long-range this season.

“Alex Wake’s performance was incredible and most times we had a hand in the face but it didn’t matter,” said McDonald. “They also defend well with their length and athleticism and we had a hard time doing anything offensively against them.”

Senior Joey Bianco closed out a brilliant prep career for the Wolves, scoring 25 points to pace Ely in the quarterfinal defeat. Freshman Jack Davies was the only other Ely player to hit double digits.

Bianco finished his prep career with 1,790 points, and racked up 24.4 per game this year including 683 for the season, which was second most in school history.

A two-time All-Arrowhead Conference performer, Bianco also averaged 8.4 assists per game this winter.

Bianco was one of five seniors on the Ely roster, joining fellow starters Erron Anderson, Jason Kerntz and Gunnar Hart and reserve Jake Cochran.

All contributed to a Wolves team that won five more games than it did a year ago and picked up a playoff victory.

“I thought it was a great season for us,” said McDonald. “This team really worked well together and was a great group to coach. For the most part we competed with everyone that we faced this year, which was great to see. It will be hard to see this bunch of seniors leave as they have had a lot to do with the success we have had over the last few years.”

Davies had a breakout freshman campaign for the Wolves, hitting 141 three-pointers for the year and averaging 19 points per night.

“The returning players will have to spend a lot of time in the off-season for us to be competitive next year as we lose so much with the five seniors being gone,” said McDonald. “Hopefully we will do the work and be competitive again next year.”

• The Wolves moved into the quarterfinal round with relative ease, cruising past Bigfork 66-39 in a March 9 home contest in Ely.

Bianco and Davies did much of the damage, with Bianco scoring 25 points and dishing out 10 assists, while Davies poured in 21 points.

Anderson snared eight rebounds in the win.

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