All-UP Girls Basketball 2018-2019

On top of the Upper Peninsula

Westwood's Tessa Leece grabs this rebound before the ball goes out of bounds in the second quarter of a high school girls basketball game against Negaunee at the Patriots' gym on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

Westwood’s Leece expands her game, earns Divisions 1-2-3 Player of the Year

MARQUETTE — Westwood junior guard Tessa Leece has always been known as a shooter.

She’s deadly beyond the arc and clutch at the free throw line. Proof comes after she has competed for all three of her high school years at the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Top Shooters Challenge competition.

Now she’s been bestowed with probably her greatest honor, the Upper Peninsula Divisions 1-2-3 Player of the Year by the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association at its annual meeting held in Marquette on Tuesday. That honor also secured her spot on the All-U.P. Dream Team.

When the game is on the line, Patriots fans want the ball in her hands, or if not, in the hands of her backcourt teammate, Madi Koski.

This season, Leece added a little more to her game and became not just a great shooter that struck fear into opposing defenses, but one that could beat a team at either end of the court.

She could drive the lane with ease and wasn’t afraid to go up against opposing players who are taller. But she was also tenacious on defense, willing to crash the boards and apply tight pressure on opposing guards.

Thanks to Leece’s leadership, Westwood made a deep run in the postseason to the MHSAA Division 3 state quarterfinals.

After a year where she averaged 15.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.1 steals per game, Leece was named the West PAC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year and Mid-Peninsula Conference Player of the Year.

She was runner-up for one more U.P.-wide award — Miss U.P. Basketball, which was earned by Emily Coveyou of St. Ignace.

“They (Leece and Koski) both have come so far in the last couple of years,” Westwood head coach Kurt Corcoran said. “Every year, they add another level or a weapon into their arsenal. Tessa used to be a skinny little shooter, just a one-trick pony.

“But she’s developed her game and become one of the most dynamic offensive and defensive players in the area. I’m excited to see what she can pull off next season.”

Based on what Leece has accomplished this year as well as at the Top Shooters Challenge, that might be a tough act to follow. However, with her tenacity and work ethic, it’s a real possibility that she might outdo herself next winter.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.