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New coach, new look for Ely girls

Lead Summary

by Tom Coombe
Ely’s high school girls basketball team will bear little resemblance to the squad that took the court last winter.
Graduation took a heavy toll on the Timberwolves’ roster, with multi-year starters and 1,000-point scorers Erika Mattson and Brielle Kallberg among those moving on.
The Wolves, who reached the Section 7A quarterfinals last year and lost a heartbreaker to Chisholm, will also have a new look on the sidelines.
Max Gantt is the Wolves’ new head coach. The physical education teacher and Ely graduate steps in for Darren Visser, who stepped aside after the 2019-20 campaign.
Gantt and assistant coach Tom Omerza are in a rebuilding mode in a season that’s starting late, and is abbreviated, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the first-year head coach said Wednesday, after three practices, that he likes what he has seen from what figures to be both a young and athletic team.
“I think we’re going to be a good defensive team, but we’re going to need to figure out ways to score,” said Gantt. “I do think we’ll be pretty deep.”
Two freshman guards, Sarah Visser and Grace LaTourell, are already battle-tested after gaining varsity experience a year ago.
Both logged many minutes for the Wolves down the home stretch last winter, including the postseason run.
Junior post player Ande Visser also returns for the Wolves and has been a starter, providing the team with strength and rebounding underneath. Sophomore Rachel Coughlin also figures to move into a more prominent role this winter.
Nonetheless, the Wolves may be looking for an identity of sorts as they open up an 18-game schedule (see box) Thursday night, at home, against Two Harbors.
“I think we have a bunch of people who can step in and give us good minutes, but to score it’s not going to be one person, it’s going to be an actual team.”
Because of the pandemic, the start of the season was delayed for several weeks and teams across the state are playing with new protocols, including masks while on the floor, and a shortened game schedule. The 18-game slate runs to mid-March and plans currently call for a section and state tournament.
Gantt said that his team, which includes about 24 players in grades 6-12, is excited for the opportunity.
“Everyone’s been working hard and I think everybody is just happy to be back in the gym with a ball in their hands,” he said.
(Editor’s note: This week’s Echo includes previews of the girls basketball and skiing seasons. Next week will feature hockey and boys basketball).

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