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Powerful Patriots pummel Flivvers

Westwood opens season with dominant win over Kingsford

Westwood’s Tessa Leece goes to the basket in the game against Kingsford Friday December 6th, 2019 at Westwood Highschool. (Journal photo by Amy Grigas)

ISHPEMING — Every sports team will have some jitters going into its first game of the season, no matter how much experience that team brings to the table.

It didn’t take long for the Westwood girls basketball team to find its groove on Friday night though. Despite a slow start in the first quarter, the Patriots, whom several people deem to be the Upper Peninsula’s preseason favorite, opened their season with a bang, topping Kingsford 63-27 at home behind a 23-point performance from senior guard Madi Koski.

Koski only missed the bucket twice, going 9 of 11 from the field, including 5 of 6 from three-point range.

Three of those triples came in the first quarter. Add a layup to that resumé, and the All-U.P. Dream Teamer from last season had 11 of Westwood’s 13 first quarter points to give the Patriots a 13-8 lead after eight minutes.

In the lead after one quarter? That’s a solid start to the season, but compared to the final three quarters, it was still a slow one. The Patriots went on to score 22 points in the second, while limiting the Flivvers to just five. That allowed Westwood to go into cruise control for the remainder of the evening and improve to 1-0.

“I don’t think we got out of the gates real fast,” Westwood head coach Kurt Corcoran said. “We had four turnovers in the first four minutes probably, we weren’t running our offensive sets correctly, and those are things that happen in the first game. I’ve been doing this for almost 10 years now, and I still say that the team who wins that first game is more or less lucky, because you’re ironing out wrinkles and you just can’t duplicate the intensity of a real game in practice.

“We missed some cuts, we missed some passes, but it all corrected itself. When we went with a simpler offense, just moved the ball and hit the high post, that’s when our offense really started to explode.”

Corcoran rotated his entire roster in hopes of keeping an up-tempo style on the floor, which also helped the Patriots on the defensive side of the ball.

“We were playing a lot of people, we played nine-deep (tonight) with the idea that we’re going to be a little more up-tempo,” he said. “Girls are going to need breaks in order to keep their gas tanks filled. I thought that worked out in our favor. Everybody off the bench, one through nine, all got really good quality minutes and contributed to that defense.

“It’s a lot easier to play good defense when you’re not running on empty. That’s one thing that we focus on daily is our defense and communicating. I was absolutely happy with the defensive effort and communication.”

Kingsford dropped to 1-1 in its second game of the season as it struggled to generate offense without its star point guard in senior Brooke Kriegl.

“I knew it was going to be a tough game when we’re missing our point guard, who’s coming in as our floor leader and co-pilot,” Flivvers head coach Lisa Harry said. “With (Brooke) being out, we knew we had our hands full. Regardless, this is a great Westwood team, so you’ve got to put together one of your better games to compete with them.”

Corcoran agreed that his team may have gotten a bit of a break by not having Kriegl on the floor.

“Listen, when you don’t have your starting point guard and you see pressure like that, that’s tough on anybody,” he said. “I don’t want to take anything away from those Kingsford girls that did play, but when you don’t have your bus driver… Brooke just played on Tuesday, so (Kingsford) probably just found out she wasn’t going to play and that’s kind of a shellshock within itself. We definitely took advantage of that. Brooke is a game changer and they missed her (tonight).”

Harry credited her Flivvers team for a strong start and playing hard until the final buzzer sounded.

“I thought we started off okay,” she said. “I mean it was 8-8 with about a minute to go in the first quarter. Then we made a couple of crucial mistakes and it seemed like once (Westwood) got going, they were on a tear (and) it kind of snowballed on us a little bit. Our mistakes compounded into their points.

“We fought. The girls fought hard, they played hard until the end, they hustled, they had good attitudes and good energy that’s all I can ask.”

Kingsford senior Maggie Strehlow tied the game 8-8 on a bank shot with just under two minutes to play in the first quarter. Shortly after that, Koski picked up a steal and fed a pass to sophomore Natalie Prophet, who put in an easy layup and put the Patriots back in the lead. A corner triple from Koski near the end of the quarter made it a 13-8 game after eight minutes.

The Flivvers were held below double digits in all four frames, being outscored by Westwood 50-19 in the final three quarters. The score was 35-13 at halftime and 51-19 after three.

Westwood finished 26 of 57 shooting for a total of 45.6 percent from the field. Seven out of the Patriots’ nine players found the scoresheet. Prophet was the next highest point-getter with 13, while junior Ellie Miller chipped in with seven, seniors Tessa Leece and Karlie Patron with six, sophomore Mallory Leece with five and senior Meghan Johnson with three.

The Patriots picked up 21 rebounds with Koski, Prophet and Miller each collecting four. Westwood was 3 of 7 at the free throw line.

Kingsford was led by seniors Kate Cook and Ali Doolittle with nine points apiece. The Flivvers were 5 of 11 from the charity stripe, while picking up 26 boards with Maggie Strehlow grabbing 10.

Kingsford hosts Ishpeming on Monday, while Westwood travels to Menominee.

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.

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