Playoff poise pays off; Girls rally past Deer River for first quarterfinal berth since ’08

IN THE 1000 POINT CLUB - Ely’s Shayla Zaverl scored her 1,000th point Feb. 22 at Babbitt, when the Timberwolves downed Northeast Range. The Ely senior also had a big night Wednesday, snaring 11 rebounds and dishing out seven assists as the high school girls basketball team beat Deer River 39-37 in the Section 7A playoffs.

by Tom Coombe -

Patience and poise, together with a clutch stretch run, have put the Ely Timberwolves into the Section 7A quarterfinals for the first time in 10 seasons.
Brielle Kallberg’s basket with eight seconds left completed a stirring second-half rally as the high school girls basketball team edged Deer River 39-37 Wednesday night at Coleraine.
Erika Mattson scored a game-high 23 points, including a three-pointer that tied the contest with 55 seconds left, and the fifth-seeded Wolves erased a nine-point second-half deficit to stun the fourth-seeded Warriors.
Ely, which won its fourth straight game, improved to 14-11 overall and gained a Saturday afternoon date with top-seeded Mt. Iron-Buhl in Duluth.
It will be Ely’s first 7A quarterfinal appearance since 2008, and it came only after a second-half turnaround against Deer River.
“I don’t know if it’s quite sunk in yet,” said Ely Head Coach Darren Visser. “I think it’s a big win for the program for however many years it’s been that Ely has won a game at this level.”
For much of the night, it looked like the Wolves would wait at least another year before moving on in the tournament.
Ely struggled with Deer River’s inside game in the opening stanza, when six-footer Natalie Bakkedahl scored 15 of her team-high 17 points.
The Warriors created turnovers early on and rushed the Wolves into bad shots, building a 10-2 lead and taking a 17-12 edge at the half.
Bakkedahl provided nearly all of Deer River’s offense, but some key minutes off the bench by sophomore Winter Sainio helped slow the Warriors’ momentum.
Deer River still led the entire half, and it was 21-12 before the Wolves started to click early in the second half.
They rebounded better, with Kallberg and senior Shayla Zaverl combining for more than 20 boards, while Mattson warmed from the outside.
A Kallberg jumper capped a 10-0 Ely run and gave the Wolves a 22-21 edge, but Deer River answered with some outside shooting of its own.
Hope Schjenken missed all eight of her three-point attempts in the opening half but started to connect in the second stanza.
She hit three triples, the last of which gave the Warriors a 37-34 lead.
Deer River looked to hold the ball with about 2:30 to go, but the Warriors couldn’t run out the clock and a defensive rebound led to Mattson’s game-tying three-pointer.
Schjenken misfired on a shot that would have given Deer River the edge, and Zaverl grabbed the rebound, went the length of the floor and fed Kallberg for the go-ahead score.
Ely had a two-point lead and fouls to give, and some pressure in the backcourt took time off the clock and a foul gave Deer River the ball left with three seconds to go.
A desperation ‘three rimmed out just before the horn, and the Wolves left with the program’s biggest win since 2008.
“We were in that situation where we had fouls to give and they had to go the full court,” Visser said. “We talked during the time out about fouling them and making them inbound it again, and the first time we were able to eat up five seconds.”
Ely appeared to regain some composure after some early jitters and turned the tables on the Warriors, pressuring their guards and allowing few second shots in the second half.
“Once we finally figured out how to defend their post we played better,” said Visser. “That was a big part, and in the second half offensively we were more patient and waited for our shots to come.”
Ely will be decided underdogs against the Rangers, who have won seven straight section titles and blew out the Wolves in early-February.
• The Wolves closed the regular season with a 67-52 victory at South Ridge Feb. 23.
Mattson had 22 points and 14 rebounds for the winners, while Zaverl added 18 points and eight rebounds.
Kallberg picked off a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) , and senior Kalley Fischer had seven rebounds and three assists to go with five points.
“This was a very big win for us,” said Visser. “ Without this win I do not believe we would have held onto the fifth seed for the playoffs. After already having two road games this week and this being the third I thought our girls did an excellent job of handling being tired, staying focused, and doing what it took to get the win.”