HIBBING- The Ely Timberwolves used an opening second half spurt to pull ahead of Cromwell-Wright in Tuesday’s sectional semifinal in Hibbing, but the Cardinals retook control and pulled away …
HIBBING- The Ely Timberwolves used an opening second half spurt to pull ahead of Cromwell-Wright in Tuesday’s sectional semifinal in Hibbing, but the Cardinals retook control and pulled away down the stretch for a 53-43 win to advance to the Section 7A finals.
Both teams got off to a slow start with turnovers on their first two possessions before Isabella Anderson got the Cardinals on the board first with a bucket and one. Hannah Penke immediately answered for the Wolves with a basket, but this game was shaping up as a defensive battle. Ely took its first lead of the game at 14-13 on a corner triple by Penke with just over eight minutes elapsed on the clock. The Cardinals regained the lead 19-17 at the 4:41 mark, but a three-ball by Grace LaTourell put the Wolves back ahead 20-19 with 3:12 left. That was the last score of the half for Ely, and a pair of charities put the Cardinals up 21-20 at the break.
The Wolves came out of the locker room with a two-three zone that triggered three turnovers and a 7-0 streak fueled by a 12-foot jumper in the lane by Madeline Kallberg, a three-ball by Madeline Perry, and a 15-footer from the left of the key by LaTourell, quickly thrusting Ely to a 27-21 lead.
But as quickly as the scoring faucet turned on for the Wolves, it turned off again. After a Cardinals time out, Ely came up dry on their next six possessions, letting Cromwell creep to within 27-25. LaTourell righted the ship with a trey at the 12:08 mark, and had a fast break score on an assist from Perry to extend the lead to 34-27 with just over 11 minutes to play.
But Ely would remain stuck at 34 for the next four-and-a-half minutes as the Cardinals turned up the heat on both ends of the floor and reeled off a devastating 12-0 run to retake the lead 39-34 with seven minutes remaining. Penke hit a triple at the 6:38 mark, but that did little to slow the Cardinals’ momentum, and after Kallberg hit a baseline jumper with under five minutes to play the Wolves would tally only one more shot from the floor the rest of the way. A triple by Cromwell’s Emaleigh Olesiak and another bucket and one by Anderson put the Cardinals up 47-39, forcing the Wolves to go to a full-court press with 3:26 to play. With the Wolves’ man defense pressuring all over the court, the Cardinals found easy paths to the basket. LaTourell dropped in a pair of free throws at the 1:54 mark and scored again on a free-throw-line jumper with :42 to play, but the Wolves came up empty in their final two possessions and the Cardinals ran out the clock for the 53-43 win.
Ely Head Coach Max Gantt credited the Cardinals’ defense for disrupting what the Wolves wanted to do on offense.
“We like to dribble drive and we had a tough time getting by them,” he said. “We struggled to get some shots, struggled to make open looks once we did get them. The rhythm was not there. We’d get an open look but it’s not falling anymore.”
Gantt noted that the brief switch two-three zone produced the desired results, but it wasn’t something the Wolves could stick with.
“It’s not necessarily a strength of ours,” he said. “We tried to just flash it and they turned it over three times in a row, so it was a nice little run for us. But we couldn’t stay in that the whole half because they know how to beat it.”
While he was disappointed with the loss, Gantt didn’t let it detract from the team’s outstanding year, one in which they set the school record for most wins in a season.
“When you play 28 games and you win 23, you’d take that every year,” he said. “We worked hard and we never lost back-to-back games, we always came back stronger. Our defense improved throughout the year and we had some awesome stretches on offense where we would catch fire. They’re just a great, great group to be around. They worked so hard all year and they were just a lot of fun.”
LaTourell led the Wolves in scoring on Tuesday, with 20 points. Penke also reached double figures with 10. Ely ended the season with a record of 23-5.
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