Mining for a victory: Negaunee Miners spoil Westwood Patriots’ 1,000-point celebration of Tessa Leece with 43-33 win
NEGAUNEE — Friday night started off well for the Westwood girls basketball team, but it ended up in a bad result.
Early in the Patriots’ game at Negaunee, senior Tessa Leece picked up her 1,000th career point, becoming just the fifth Westwood girl to achieve that. Teammate Madi Koski did it earlier in the season to become the fourth.
Then things went downhill after that for the Patriots as Negaunee stifled the Westwood offense and got 24 points from Alyssa Hill to earn a 43-33 win.
“They got scoring options all over the place,” Miners head coach Mike O’Donnell said. “So coming into the game, we’re not saying ‘We’ve got to shut down one or the other (Leece or Koski)’ because when you do that, it seems like everybody else gets loose on you.
“So we just wanted to play good solid defense assignment-wise. Know their tendencies, know what they wanted to do. They run a lot of stuff, so we just wanted to be solid defensively and I thought we were for the most part and we rebounded the ball well.
“This was a big one for us because we had a tough overtime game loss up at Calumet, we lost an ugly one down in Gwinn Tuesday night, so we needed a little confidence booster and we were able to come out and get it tonight.”
The loss was tough to take for Westwood, which entered the game on a 14-game winning streak.
“It was weird,” Patriots head coach Kurt Corcoran said. “I was just begging and praying for one of those shots to fall and typically, they do.
“Unofficially, we only had five assists. On any given night, we’re looking at 18 to 20 assists. It was just not fluid basketball. We’re at our best when we’re moving the ball and everybody is getting a touch and making the defense really have to work.
“Tonight, it was just a wakeup call and I think it was one that we needed.”
There wasn’t much scoring in the first quarter as the Patriots (16-2) led 5-4 going into the second. In fact, there was only one made field goal and it came on a layup by Hill.
Things started to pick up offensively in the second quarter. Negaunee (14-5) opened with two buckets from Hill as well as a triple from Larissa Anderson. Down 11-5, Westwood answered back with a layup from Natalie Prophet and a basket from Ellie Miller off a pass from Koski.
After the Patriots tied the game 13-13 on a free throw from Leece, the Miners’ Morgan Carlson beat the buzzer with a basket to put Negaunee up 15-13 at the half.
Westwood took the lead early in the third quarter on a putback by Prophet, but that’s the last time the Patriots were ahead. Negaunee got a jumper from Hill and a layup from Breanne Giotto to go up 19-16.
After a Koski trey, Lilly Nelson hit a jumper to put the Miners back up by four. However, Koski knocked down a 3-pointer before the end of the quarter to get the Patriots within one, 25-24.
That’s as close as Westwood would get, though. A triple from Hill pushed the Miners’ advantage to nine at 33-24 and she dropped in a bucket on Negaunee’s next possession to get the lead into double digits.
The Patriots tried to battle back and did cut their deficit to four at 37-33 on a basket by Jillian Koski, but the Miners wouldn’t be denied.
If there was one positive out of the evening, it was Leece’s 1,000th-point night and Corcoran had a lot of praise for her.
“There really are no words to describe what Tessa has meant to this program and to our community,” he said. “She does everything the right way and she’s done everything I’ve ever asked of her.
“She’s watching my kids and my kids are in love with her. She’s been at the weight room every day, and she’s never been asked. She helps with the little kids.
“She does it all and I consider myself a very lucky coach to have had her for four years.
“I have two 1,000-point scorers and I can’t say enough about Madi. They’re both the quintessential teammates and basketball players. To get one of those girls in a career is pretty lucky, but to land two of them at the same time is unbelievable.”
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal. net.