Wolves win an OT thriller
by Tom Coombe
Less than two weeks before the playoffs begin for real, the Ely Timberwolves passed a significant playoff test.
In a game that had a playoff feel, the Timberwolves outlasted South Ridge 67-64 in a Feb. 26 overtime thriller at the high school gymnasium.
Will Davies picked up a loose ball and drove for the go-ahead hoop with just over a minute left in the extra session, and fellow senior Brock LaTourell picked off a long-distance pass with two seconds left to seal the Wolves’ biggest win of the year.
Ely (9-3) also blew out Cook County 76-22 on Tuesday but the signature win of the week if not the season came against the Panthers, who were led by 6-6 Austin Josephson.
Josephson scored only 12 points but was a dominant force inside, while the Panthers had at least three other players 6-3 or taller against the much tinier Wolves, who don’t start a player over six feet.
But Ely’s guard play was the difference as the Wolves prevailed in a seesaw affair in which the teams traded momentum.
“I thought it was a great win against a quality opponent in the South Ridge game,” said Ely Head Coach Tom McDonald. “I thought for the most part we contained their size advantage inside and our guys battled throughout the game.”
The Wolves, with senior Emmett Faltesek leading the way, built a double-digit edge early in the first half.
Four of five Ely starters hit three-point shots in the first 10 minutes of the game and the tempo was in the Wolves’ favor.
South Ridge clawed back, utilizing its size and overcoming turnovers and a lack of outside shooting.
The Panthers took a narrow lead midway through the second half but the Wolves countered.
Ely led by three as regulation wound down but South Ridge forced overtime on Jaxson Bennett’s three-pointer from the top of the key.
In overtime, the Wolves grabbed an early 62-58 lead but South Ridge again came back.
Davies helped steer the contest in Ely’s favor when after a missed shot, he pounced on a loose ball and found a path to the basket for a go-ahead layup.
Faltesek was six-for-10 from three-point distance for the Wolves and led everyone in scoring with 27 points.
Davies had 12 points, while sophomore guard Joey Bianco had 11 points and nine assists. LaTourell had seven steals including the game-clincher before the horn.
“We will need to shoot free throws better in games down the road if we will want to win other close games as 11-for-20 was not good,” said McDonald. “I thought we shot well enough early to get ourselves a lead but it was difficult getting anything at the rim with Josephson blocking shots all night.”
Aaron and Jaxson Bennett combined for 37 points for the Panthers.
• Ely is in the midst of a grueling, regular season-ending stretch that included a Friday night home game with North Woods and a Saturday visit to Nashwauk-Keewatin.
Those two teams were to meet in last season’s 7A final before the game was scrapped because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They met earlier this week with Nashwauk-Keewatin prevailing 83-73 and the Spartans are now ranked first in 7A.
Also ahead is a Monday road game at Greenway, a Tuesday home tilt with Lakeview Christian and a Mar. 12 date at Cherry.
The 7A tournament begins for the Wolves Mar. 17, most likely at home.