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Down to the wire: Westwood Patriots don’t clinch 53-49 girls basketball win over Marquette Redettes till final seconds

Marquette’s Rayna Warchock, bottom center, gets off a pass after sliding to a stop on her knees while Westwood’s Natalie Prophet, left, and Tessa Leece, right, defend during their high school girls basketball game played at the Barb Crill Gymnasium in Marquette on Thursday. Looking on is Marquette’s Sofia van den Ende. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

“We need these situations.” — Kurt Corcoran, Westwood head girls basketball coach, on playing a close game vs. Marquette

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MARQUETTE — No game is easy despite how good your record makes you look.

The Westwood varsity girls basketball team certainly had one of its biggest challenges of the season on Thursday night playing in Marquette.

The No. 2-ranked Patriots rose to the challenge by fending off Marquette 53-49 in a nonconference tilt to improve to 13-1 this season.

A pair of free throws from Tessa Leece with seven seconds remaining sealed the deal for Westwood as it handed the Redettes (9-6) their fourth straight loss for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

Natalie Prophet led the Patriots in scoring with a 17-point night followed by Karlie Patron with 15.

“I thought we showed a lot of resiliency,” Westwood head coach Kurt Corcoran said. “We had a couple of spurts there in the first quarter where we pulled up by seven or nine (points), but Tessa picked up her second foul in the first quarter so we had to sit her, which allowed Marquette to capitalize on that.

“Marquette capitalized on Tessa being out of the game and pulled themselves back into it. It seemed like every time we would build a cushion, they would hit an and-one and just keep it close.

“We could never quite get over that hump. The way we were playing, we were uptempo and fast and it was like ‘Here we go,’ and then Marquette would hit an and-one and slow everything down.

“They did a great job. They had all the momentum (tonight), especially in the second half when (Aspen) Michelin took over. Aspen was slapping the floor, the crowd was into it and it had all the makings for your classic come-from-behind upset.

“We’ve got to credit our girls for not panicking.”

Corcoran said he likes being in tight games as opposed to blowouts as his team prepares for the stretch run of the season.

“We need these situations,” he said. “Especially since we’re getting close to tournament time. Any team that goes anywhere in the tournament has got to have a little bit of luck. I thought we had a little bit of luck here (tonight) and I thought we also imposed some of our strengths on Marquette. It was fun.”

A losing streak isn’t a common occurrence for MSHS, and head coach Ben Smith takes that as a positive as three of those losses have come to the U.P.’s top three teams — Westwood, Menominee and Sault Ste. Marie — at home.

“That’s a positive thing that it’s been awhile,” Smith said. “Kind of the bummer is three of the four have been at home. It’s usually nice when you’re at home to take care of business.

“I’d like to think no matter what our record is or how good some people think we are or think we aren’t, I hope the girls understand that we do some pretty good things.

“I thought for some of the stretches (tonight), we were in a really good spot. Communicating, competing, digging in and being right there.”

The margin never exceeded eight points throughout and Westwood took narrow two-point leads after each of the first two quarters, 15-13 and 28-26.

Patron opened the fourth with a triple to increase the Patriots’ lead to eight, but with 4:24 to go, Michelin hit a triple to knot the score 49-49.

Westwood’s Madi Koski answered with a 2-point bucket and it was a game of keepaway from there. Marquette waited as long as it could without fouling, trying to force a steal or turnover.

With about a minute left, Maria Millado poked the ball loose and gave the Redettes the chance they were looking for. It was a mad scramble for the ball that went out of bounds. The officials ruled that Marquette was the last to touch it, keeping the ball in Westwood’s hands.

Michelin finally fouled Leece with seven seconds remaining and Leece did her job, sinking both shots to ice it.

Leece and Koski each finished with nine points. Marquette was led by Millado with 19 while Michelin finished with 14. Maddie Carter added eight.

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.