Shoot the lights out: 4 area girls basketball players take part in free throw, 3-point contests with state’s best

Shoot the lights out

Sophomore Tessa Leece of Westwood shoots during the finals of the 3-point competition at the Michigan Top Shooters Challenge held during the MHSAA girls basketball state finals at Calvin College in Grand Rapids on March 17. Leece was runner-up for the second straight year. (Photo courtesy of Geoff Kimmerly of the MHSAA)

“It was so much fun, but also nerve-wracking knowing you’re shooting against some of the best shooters in the state.” — Tessa Leece, sophomore, Westwood girls basketball


ISHPEMING — Four girls from western Marquette County high school basketball teams were invited to the Michigan Top Shooter Challenge.

The competition was held during the MHSAA girls state finals held at Calvin College in Grand Rapids on March 17.

Westwood sophomores Madi Koski and Tessa Leece, along with Ishpeming seniors Madigan Johns and Mariah Austin, were invited to an event that featured the top 20 shooters in the state by percentage in both free throw and 3-point shooting categories.

These are the girls and some of the officials who took part in the 3-point shooting contest during the Michigan Top Shooter Challenge held during the MHSAA girls basketball finals at Calvin College in Grand Rapids on March 17. Westwood sophomore Tessa Leece is second from the right in the front row holding up her finalists' certificate for coming in second place. (Photo courtesy Geoff Kimmerly of the MHSAA)

Contestants must have a minimum of 50 attempts in the regular season and be nominated by a Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan coach to be invited.

Koski, Johns and Austin each competed in the free throw contest, while Leece took part in shooting 3-pointers.

This was Johns’ and Leece’s second consecutive time at the competition.

Leece finished second in the 3-point contest for a second straight


Leece said although a fun experience, her nerves were also high going up against some of Michigan’s best.

Ishpeming seniors  Mariah Austin, left, and Madigan Johns get emotional while leaving their home court at Ishpeming High School for the final time in their high school careers in the fourth quarter of a Class C district basketball game against Westwood on March 2. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

“It was so much fun, but also nerve-wracking knowing you’re shooting against some of the best shooters in the state,” she said. “The competition was intense because we all shot around the same scores.

“One thing I will take away from this experience is how nice the other girls were and how supportive they were, even when we were shooting against each other.”

Koski echoed her teammate’s comment on nerves, but enjoyed the setting.

“I liked the atmosphere,” she said. “I was nervous because I knew that everyone would be good, but I was excited as well. The competition was intense. Everyone was focused on every single shot they took.

“It takes a lot of time in the gym to become one of the top free throw shooters in the state. Even though it was a competition, everyone cheered each other on and was supportive of each other. Everyone had good sportsmanship.”

Leece and Koski also wanted to Patriots’ head coach Kurt Corcoran, his family and their own families for making the trip downstate.

Johns said her experience from last year helped her nerves this year, and she was also able to cheer on some American Athletic Union basketball teammates.

Johns plays for an AAU team based out of Houghton, where Leece, Koski, Austin and Chassell players Milly Allen and Sydney Danison play in the Level Up program.

“Being able to be a part of the state’s best free throw shooters for two years is an amazing experience,” she said. “But this year it was nice going into the competition that you’ll be supported and cheered on by all the other girls that are participating. I also got to cheer on my AAU teammates in their championship game, so that was cool as well.

“One thing I’ll take away from this experience is being able to make friendships with different basketball players from all over the state.”

Austin said getting to the competition was a credit to her teammates, stating the Hematites shot well as a team from the charity stripe all season.

“It was an honor to participate in the top shooters contest,” she said. “I couldn’t have done this without my teammates. We had a really good free throw percentage as a team this year.”

Asked if there was any rivalry between her and her Hematites teammate in the free throw contest, Austin added it was all in good fun.

“There was really no rivalry,” she said. “Madigan and I have been playing together since second grade, it was a lot of fun doing it together.”

Johns and Austin also thanked their head coach Ryan Reichel as well as those who came down to support them.

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal. net.