Grizzlies show their stuff: State’s number-one ranked Class A team hands Ely its first loss; Wolves to host holiday tourney for first time since ‘09

by Tom Coombe
When is a nearly 30-point loss a moral victory?
When the opponent is the top-ranked team in the state.
So it was for the Ely Timberwolves Dec. 15 at Cook, where they gave powerful Northwoods a run for their money before fading late in an 87-59 high school boys basketball defeat.
Northwoods, last year’s Section 7A champions and state runner-up, is rated first in Class A this winter and unbeaten in five starts.
The Grizzlies, who got 36 points from senior sharpshooter Tate Olson, were averaging over 100 points per game and play impressive defense.
But the Wolves, who lost for the first time in four starts, weathered a few early storms and remained very much in the ballgame midway through the first half.
“I was happy that we competed with them for a good portion of the game but their athleticism finally got to us on both ends of the floor,” said Ely Head Coach Tom McDonald.
Patrick Vanderbeek’s ninth three-pointer of the night trimmed the Grizzlies’ lead to 60-49 with nine minutes left, and gave the junior 29 points for the night.
Vanderbeek wouldn’t score again and Northwoods countered with a run of its own.
Olson led the charge as Northwoods went on a 13-3 run to gain a 21-point lead.
Ely wouldn’t threaten again, and the Grizzlies cruised.
“I thought we did an ok job defensively on them but they just have too many weapons to contain,” said McDonald. “We also had a hard time getting into our offense as they are so physical and quick defensively. ”
Olson buried seven of the Grizzlies’ 15 three-point baskets, but Northwoods also spread the wealth on offense.
Senior Brendan Parson added 17 points for the winners and Cade Goggleye finished with 16, and Northwoods showed off its depth, going eight players deep without a drop in production.
Vanderbeek was the only Ely player in double figures for the night.
Carter Gaulke added nine points and four assists for the Wolves while Adam McDonald was next with eight points and four assists.
Trevor Mattson scored seven points for Ely and Blaise Lah pulled down 13 rebounds.
Ely was within single digits for much of the first half, but the Grizzlies closed out the half with a 7-0 spurt to take a 36-20 lead
“We had 22 turnovers which is way too many against a team like Northwoods,” said McDonald.
• For the first time since 2009, Ely will host a holiday tournament.
Games are set for Thursday and Friday at the high school gymnasium and the Wolves will get a taste of competition from outside the area.
Ely (3-1) hosts Upsala (0-4) in Thursday’s 7:15 p.m. finale, while Cook County (2-2) tangles with Walker (2-2) at 5:30 p.m.
The action continues Friday with the consolation game at 4:30 p.m. and the title game to follow at 6:15.
“It will be nice to get the home tourney back,” said McDonald. “It has been awhile.”
McDonald points to Walker, a contender in Section 5A last year, as a team to watch.
“I know nothing about the two out of the area teams which should make it interesting,” said McDonald. “We just hope to compete against the teams we will face. I would think Walker is the favorite though as they always have teams that are athletic and big.”