All-state: Westwood’s Tessa Leece leads 4 from area earning Associated Press Division 3 honors as Pewamo-Westphalia standout named state’s top player
LANSING — Steve Eklund wasn’t surprised when the text came his way.
In fact, he was expecting it.
The Pewamo-Westphalia girls basketball coach was less than 48 hours removed from watching his program capture its first state championship when one of his leaders — junior wing Hannah Spitzley — messaged him about getting back in the gym on the first full day of her spring break.
“That’s her,” Eklund said.
“Someone that excels in something, it’s because they have an extreme commitment to it. She does. She loves the game. She’s extremely serious about the game. She’s committed, hard working. If you have a passion about something, you’re going to pursue it every day.”
That’s what made Spitzley such a driving force on the court for Pewamo-Westphalia. And she leads The Associated Press Division 3 all-state team as the player of the year.
The 6-foot Spitzley, who verbally committed to Western Michigan in September, averaged 14 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals while helping the Pirates finish 27-1 this winter. She shot 50 percent from the field and 79 percent from the free-throw line while helping Pewamo-Westphalia break through for a state championship after the program finished as the Class C runner-up in 2017 and reached the state semifinals last year.
Several area players also earned Division 3 honors, led by Westwood’s Tessa Leece, who was named Second Team all-state.
Leece, a 5-foot-9 junior guard, was named the Divisions 1-2-3 Player of the Year for the Upper Peninsula last week by U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association after helping lead the 24-2 Patriots to the D-3 quarterfinals in Gaylord.
Leece was named Player of the Year in both the West PAC and the Mid-Peninsula Conference, also making the M-PC All-Defensive Team. She averaged 15.2 points per game while making 46 percent of her field goal attempts, including 42 percent on 3-pointers, and 83 percent on free throws. She also averaged 5.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 3.1 steals per game.
Junior teammate Madelyn Koski, a 5-6 guard, and their coach, Kurt Corcoran, made the Division 3 all-state honorable mention lists, as did Negaunee’s MacKenzie Karki.
They were joined on that list by the only other U.P. players honored, West Iron County’s Eden Golliher and Emily Nelson.
Koski, who joined Leece on the All-U.P. Dream Team, was named to the West PAC Dream Team and M-PC First Team and All-Defensive Team. Koski averaged 15.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.6 steals while making 41 percent from the field, including 38 percent on 3-pointers, and 86 percent on free throws.
Corcoran, who was named the U.P.’s Divisions 1-2-3 Coach of the Year, led a team without a senior and with at least three freshman on its postseason roster to its first regional title since 2008.
Westwood was attempting to win its second-ever state championship to go with one earned in 2003.
Corcoran was also named Coach of the Year in the West PAC; the M-PC doesn’t make that award.
Karki, a 5-4 senior, was named to the All-U.P. Divisions 1-2-3 Second Team along with the West PAC Dream Team and M-PC First Team and All-Defensive Team.
She helped the Miners go 16-5 overall, averaging 10.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.6 steals a game, hitting 67 percent of her 3-point attempts and 41 percent overall from the field.
Back at Pewamo-Westphalia, Spitzley had always made an impact on the defensive end in the opening two years of her varsity career, but evolved as an offensive player this season following the graduation of her older sister Emily Spitzley, who had been P-W’s go-to scorer.
“I knew I had to step up this year, especially on the offensive end,” Spitzley said. “It was a new thing for me because Emily had usually been the scorer on our team. This year the eyes were kind of more on me. I took it personally being put on the spot like that. It’s a great honor, it really is. I had to be able to step up and I had to perform. I had to earn it.”
Spitzley met those expectations in all areas while displaying her all-around skill set to help the Pirates achieve their lofty goals.
“She is who she is because of her work ethic and how she plays on both ends of the court,” Eklund said.
“She’s not lighting up the scoreboard and setting state scoring records, she’s just a complete player.
“I think this year even more so, she was the same stalwart on the defensive end, but offensively she was more aggressive and as a leader she was very much improved.”
Spitzley was joined on the all-state first team by teammate Ellie Droste.
Others on the first team are Charlevoix junior Elise Stuck, Lake City junior Rylie Bisballe, Byron sophomore Sarah Marvin, freshman Mya Petticord and senior Mahri Petree of Ypsilanti Arbor Prep, Kent City sophomore Kenzie Bowers, Brown City senior Kendal Muxlow, White Pigeon junior Claycee West, Rogers City senior Taylor Fleming and junior Xeryia Tartt of state runner-up Flint Hamady.
Eklund, who surpassed 200 career wins this season, was selected the coach of the year.
They were selected by a panel of 11 Michigan sportswriters.
This story includes information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.