Ely girls hope to jump in 7A

by Tom Coombe -

The Ely Timberwolves took several major steps forward last winter, reaching double digits in victories, boosting turnout for the program and getting to the .500 mark for the first time in several years.
If they’re going to climb further up the ranks of Section 7A high school girls basketball this winter, the Wolves will look to build depth to go with a formidable nucleus as the 2017-18 campaign starts Thursday night against Nashwauk-Keewatin.
Ely went 13-13 a year ago, a five-win improvement from the season before.
All-conference sophomore Erika Mattson heads a solid list of Wolves returnees, and head coach Darren Visser goes into the new season with a healthy dose of optimism.
“With bringing back the experience we have, we are looking to improve on last year’s success,” said Visser, who begins his fourth season at the helm. “I feel we have solid leadership, in our returning players, that is going to help our younger and less experienced players to develop quicker and be able to help our team.”
Mattson, a third-year starter and a three-sport standout, developed into one of the area’s top players last year while averaging 16 points and eight rebounds per night, both team highs.
She was a consistent three-point shooting threat for the Wolves and joins fellow sophomore Brielle Kallberg and senior Shayla Zaverl in giving the Wolves three potent scoring weapons of the floor.
Kallberg is coming off a big season in volleyball, when she helped lead the Wolves to 19 wins, while Zaverl returns for her final prep basketball campaign after scoring in double digits in numerous games a year ago.
Senior guard Kalley Fischer is another returning starter, while junior Lida Dodge and Gabi Omerza both saw quality varsity time in 2016-17.
The Wolves are looking to develop a larger rotation in part to accommodate their often-exciting style on the court.
“One major key is going to be developing depth that can help us play an up-tempo style of play,” said Visser. “We lost three seniors a year ago and we are going to need people to step up and fill the holes in our depth chart. Two other key areas we need to improve on are turnovers and free throw shooting. ”
While Ely remains young, overall numbers are on the rise, with 33 players in grades 6-12.
The numbers allow Ely to field two junior high teams for the first time ins several years. The junior high program was revived a year ago.
The regular season schedule includes 12 home dates - two in the annual Hoops for Hope Holiday Tournament, slated for Dec. 27-28. Wrenshall, Lake of the Woods and Northeast Range are here for that event.

Ely Wolves Girls Basketball
2017-18 Schedule
Thursday: Nash-Kee.
Dec.2: Two Harbors, 2:45 p.m.
Dec. 7: Int. Falls
Dec. 9: at Hill City, 1 p.m.
Dec. 18: Chisholm
Dec. 19: at Two Harbors
Dec. 27: Hoops for Hope Tourney,
7:15 p.m.
Dec. 28: Hoops for Hope Tourney,
2 or 3:45 p.m.
Jan. 4: at Nash.-Kee., 6:30 p.m,
Jan. 8; at Littlefork-Big Falls, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 11: Northeast Range
Jan. 13: at Cook County, 1 p.m.
Jan. 16: Cherry
Jan. 20: Dul. Marshall, 2 p.m.
Jan. 23: Bigfork,
Jan. 25: at Chisholm
Feb. 1: at Eveleth-Gilb.
Feb. 5: at Mt. Iron-Buhl
Feb. 8: Mesabi East
Feb. 12: Silver Bay
Feb. 15: at Northwoods
Feb. 20: at Greenway, 4 p.m.
Feb. 22: at Northeast Range
Feb. 23: at South Ridge
Game time 7:15 pm unless noted