Westwood girls basketball team rebuilds for another strong team after disappointment of last season ended with pandemic
Editor’s note: With the start-and-stop of winter sports seasons this year, The Mining Journal is publishing high school basketball team previews from Marquette and Alger counties over a number of days. This story was written in late January.
ISHPEMING — Last season the Westwood girls basketball team was primed for a deep tournament run, but the unfortunate end came when the playoffs ground to a halt thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Patriots head coach Kurt Corcoran said that season will be something he’ll always remember, but that there was a positive that came out of that disappointment.
“Last March, what was it like March 13th or March 12th, it feels like it was 10 years ago for one,” he said. “For two, I had such a great (postseason) ride with those girls and that team. As you remember, that team that I had last year was the same exact team as we had the year before when we had that magical run downstate.
“I will never forget the moment I heard that we had to turn the bus around when we were in Newberry and having to tell those girls that it was over. The looks on their faces, that’ll be permanently etched into my mind for the rest of my life.
“For fear of sounding dramatic, it really was like a death. Like a death in the family because all of our hopes and dreams were just shattered. Our hearts ripped out of our chests all just in an instant.
“But we probably learned, to be cliche, that life isn’t fair. Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do. We thought we were prepared. You want to be prepared for when an opportunity arises and we were prepared. But no matter how prepared we were, there was nothing that we could do to change what was happening.”
Corcoran is keeping that same mindset going into this season and he’s focusing on just getting his team into shape before the opening game.
“It’s definitely going to be hard, but it’s just something that we’ve got to do and we’ve got to remember where we’re at,” he said. “It’s easy to complain and blame certain sides of the (political) aisle, or blame this person, or that person for what’s happened in the last couple of months and the postponing of the season.
“You can complain, or have a good attitude and be thankful for where we’re at. And that’s the attitude that we’re trying to take into this.”
Even though they lost two key backcourt players in Madi Koski and Tessa Leece along with a good post player in Karlie Patron, Corcoran thinks he still has a good group coming back.
“We lost Madi and Tessa and KP, but we’ve still got Natalie Prophet,” he said. “She’s like that cheat code. She’s just so strong and such a great leader. She’s out from the, I hesitate to even say that she was in the shadows of Madi and Tessa, but let’s be honest, when you thought of the Westwood Patriots in the last couple years, you thought of Madi and Tessa.
“And now, it’s Natalie’s turn to really shine and put us on her back. We’ve still got Emily Nelson, a returning starter. We’ve got Ellie Miller, a returning starter.
“Mallory Leece and we’ve got a couple up-and-coming newcomers from the JV squad. So I think all of the area coaches are probably thankful Madi and Tessa are finally gone, but they’ve still got a whole ‘nother crew of girls that they’re going to have to worry about now, especially Natalie.
“She’s just so strong and agile and can jump out of the gym, and has hang time and a jump shot. She can play inside, she can play outside, she can play the point guard position.
“So we’ve still got a lot of work to do, obviously. There was no offseason training. There was no team camps. I was telling the girls, this is like may the best team win. I mean, roll the balls out and play.
“Nobody had a normal offseason. Nobody was in the gym as much as they normally would be. There’s just some raw talent that’s going to be going at it for a month and a half and it’s going to be kind of fun, I think.”
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.