Starting off hot: Koski, Leece lift Westwood girls over Ishpeming

Westwood’s Emily Nelson puts in a short jumper as Ishpeming’s Rebekah Loman defends in the second quarter. (Photo courtesy of Daryl T. Jarvinen)

ISHPEMING — When Westwood guard Madi Koski has the ball in her hands, the Patriots know that things are under control.

Not only does she control the ball well, she also took control of Monday night’s game against Ishpeming early on as the junior scored 11 of her 13 points in the first quarter, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to close out the frame as Westwood defeated the Hematites 66-40.

“I want to win, so I figure that when we start out strong, we play strong,” Koski said. “So I want to make sure start out strong every single game.”

“I though Madi came out with something to prove in that first quarter,” Westwood head coach Kurt Corcoran added. “That really got us going, which is important because this game is always nerve-racking. I’ve got one of my good friends (Ishpeming head coach Ryan Reichel) coaching on the other sideline. These girls know each other and it’s a rivalry game, so we wanted to get out to a good start. We made that first bucket and then everything kind of fell into place.”

Koski’s backcourt partner Tessa Leece wasn’t too shabby either as the fellow sharpshooting junior led all scorers with 21 points, while Koski’s sister Jillian finished with 17 points. Madison Pruett led the Hematites with nine points.

Ishpeming’s Jocelynn Nyman gets control of a loose ball from Westwood’s Tessa Leece and Jillian Koski in the fourth quarter. (Photo courtesy of Daryl T. Jarvinen)

“Tessa’s freshman and sophomore years, she was a skinny little sharpshooter and everyone had to know where she was, but she has added an entirely other level to her game,” Corcoran said. “She’s got that pump fake that gets everybody off their feet every single time and then she kind of has her way with them and she snakes into the lane. It’s uncanny how good she is at it and if you don’t fall for a pump fake, she’s going to shoot it. So it’s kind of a double-edged sword there.

“That was also kind of a signature game for Jillian. She’s not really known as a scorer. She’s a really good ball-handler and she’ll probably replace her sister one day in the future. She shot the ball with confidence tonight. That’s definitely a breakout game for a freshman and that doesn’t happen too often.”

Westwood led 22-10 after the first quarter and continued to roll in the second. A three-point play from Leece put the Patriots up by 16 and shortly after that, Jillian Koski knocked down a triple to extend Westwood’s lead to 33-16. The Patriots held a 35-20 advantage at the half.

Ishpeming made things interesting thought early in the third quarter. A trey from Pruett and a three-point play from Rebekah Loman helped spark a Hematites really. A layup from Jocelyn Nyman then cut Westwood’s lead to seven at 35-28, but that’s the closest Ishpeming got as the Patriots went back up by double-digits before the end of the quarter.

The Hematites struggled at the free throw line, which is uncharacteristic for them as they were almost automatic from the charity stripe last season. However, Reichel just chalks that up to inexperience.

“We’re a young team,” he said. “You’ve got to take nerves into consideration. This is all of the girls’ second game ever starting. Traditionally, our teams have shot very well from the free throw line. It’s just something that we need to focus on in practice.

“Other than that, I thought we competed well in that third quarter and showed some things that we can be good at. But then we got tired against a good team. When you dig a hole and you have to fight your way back, you’re going to run out of gas.

“Moving forward, I like some things that we can do and we’re kind of a blank slate, so we can get a lot better over the season. We got a nice draw in the district and I like the way things are shaking out for us. Hopefully, we’ll be really good come February.”

Early in the fourth quarter, Leece made a steal and put in a breakaway layup to put Westwood up by 18 and a Jillian Koski 3-pointer shortly after that ended any hopes of a Hematites comeback.

Westwood travels to West Iron County tonight, while Ishpeming hosts Calumet Thursday.