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Go Big or Go Home: Westwood returns loaded roster; eyes set on state title

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WEST ISHPEMING, Mich. (WJMN) – The Westwood Patriots girls basketball team is coming off of a 24-2 season and a run to the MHSAA Division 3 State Quarterfinals.

The UPSSA Girls Team of the Year from last season is ready to set out for a state title, a journey that begins December 6th against Kingsford.

From top to bottom, the Westwood girls basketball team boasts the most experienced and talented roster you will see this year in the U.P.

“We try to knock them back down every single day. Tell them ‘we don’t think you’re as good as you think you are,’ in hopes that we keep them hungry, right? Because they’ve been hungry ever since we lost to lake city back in March. How do we keep that fire going? And how do we keep them hungry? That’s really what we’re going to try to do throughout the season,” said Kurt Corcoran, the head coach of the Westwood girls basketball team.

The patriots return all of their starters from last year’s squad, a team that captured a conference crown and played their way into the state quarterfinals.

“It just motivated us to work hard during the offseason and to workout, keep more reps in on our shots, always be in the gym together as a team. It motivated us to just work hard during the offseason and just come back hungry for more this year,” said Tessa Leece, a senior guard for the Patriots.

Westwood will lean on their star senior backcourt, Tessa Leece and Maddi Koski. Both players were named to the all-up dream team last season after a big junior year with Leece being named the UPSSA Girls Player of the Year.

“They have all of the accolades, we’ve got all the plaques up on the wall, except for the state championship plaque and I know they’re hungry for it. This is what they’ve been working for, this is what we’ve been working for, for a very long time,” said Corcoran.

“Maddi, she’s just an all-around a great player. We can always count on her to hit the big shot. I’ve been just working on not traveling as much. When there’s a good shot, and when there’s an even better shot, I’ve been working on that, too. I’ve also been working on new moves and my three-point shot.”

But it’s the supporting cast around the stars that really put the patriots over the top.

“You’ve got to stop Karlie patron, you’ve got to stop Jillian Koski, Natalie Prophet. Our bench is deep this year. We’ll be playing nine deep every single night. Everybody can contribute and that’s what makes it fun. It also helps with the chemistry and it also helps with the morale of the team. We’re going to get up and down the floor, we’re going to run a lot. The girls are in condition or they’re in the process of being conditioned. It’s going to make for some fun basketball games for sure,” added Corcoran.

“It is really fun. All my teammates are my best friends and we all get along so well. So, we’re all doing if for each other and we work so well together. We’re always picking each other up if we mess up. We’re just always there for each other no matter what, on and off the court,” said Emily Nelson, a junior forward for the Patriots.

Westwood will have a tough path back to states, but this team expects to be back at the end of the year.

“You already know, it’s a state title. So, hopefully, we can achieve that because every year we’ve gotten closer. Our freshman year, we fell the first game of districts. But, the second year we beat Negaunee and made it to districts. Last year, we made it all the way to state quarterfinals and we returned everyone. So, that’s just giving us a lot of hope for this year. Hopefully, GO BIG OR GO HOME,” said Leece.

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