Newsday Player of the Year: Kate Koval, Long Island Lutheran, 6-5, F/C, Jr.
Kate Koval is a player unlike any the Long Island girls basketball community has seen in a very long time — and possibly ever.
Her 6-5 frame is obviously the first thing others will notice. But she’s more than just an imposing force. Koval is just as dangerous posting up on the block as she is running alongside a guard in the open floor.
This was displayed no better than in the semifinals of the girls basketball GEICO High School Basketball Nationals in Fort Myers, Florida. Koval scored a tournament-record 38 points, shot 16-for-21 and had 16 rebounds to help LuHi advance to the championship game.
“Kate’s not a kid who steps down or steps back from pressure so in key possessions, she came up huge for us,” coach Christina Raiti said. “She demands the ball in the post and she understands when she needs to make contact in the post when we need to score.”
Koval, in her second season at LuHi after coming over from Ukraine, averaged 15.3 points, 11 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game to be named Newsday’s Long Island Player of the Year. She is one of the top-ranked players in the country with many high Division I offers.
She shot 61% from the field and 70% from the foul line. She showed elite athleticism and passing skills as well as the ability to find the open shooter when being double- or triple-teamed.
LuHi (23-3) played one of the most demanding schedules in the country. The Crusaders won the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona and the state Federation Class AA title this year. LuHi, a top 10 team in the country themselves, played four of the top 10 teams in the nation in the latest ESPN national rankings. Raiti continuously saw Koval elevate her play against stronger teams with bigger players .
“I think she plays better against bigger opponents and she’s done better traditionally against bigger teams just asserting her dominance and owning the block and making that call for the ball but our kids are always looking for Kate,” Raiti said. “There’s not many offensive possessions unless we are out scoring in transition where she does not touch the ball.”
Suffolk Player of the Year: Lola Idir, Port Jefferson, 5-9, G, Sr.
Idir was often the best player on the court in every aspect. The versatile senior averaged 21.5 points, eight rebounds, five assists and five steals per game to lead Port Jefferson to the state Class C Southeast Regional Final. She is Newsday’s Suffolk Player of the Year.
Idir, who led Long Island with 83 made three-pointers, often played her best against top competition. She had 25 points as Port Jefferson pushed Shoreham-Wading River into overtime before suffering a 52-46 loss in the Suffolk small schools final. Idir scored at least 25 points in nine of 22 games .
Olivia Agunzo, Division, 5-7, G, Sr.
She averaged 23.9 points, six rebounds and four steals per game, and ranked second in Nassau in points per game and made three-pointers (50). The Saint Leo commit shot 87% from the foul line this season. She scored at least 25 points in 11 games, including 27 against Manhasset, which won the Nassau Class A title.
Meghan Andersen, Our Lady of Mercy, 6-1, F, Sr.
The Fairfield commit averaged 23.2 points, 12 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.7 steals and 3.3 blocks per game. She shot 50.2% from the field, including 35.7% from beyond the arc, and shot 75.5% from the foul line. Anderson is dynamic in her ability to control a game from inside or outside and often played her best against top teams. Andersen scored 37 points against Massapequa, 33 points against Manhasset and 32 points against St. Mary’s. She had six games of at least 30 points.
Taryn Barbot, St. Mary’s, 5-10, G, Sr.
Barbot proved throughout her high school tenure that she plays her best against the greatest competition. And her final high school game perfectly displayed that with 42 points and 11 rebounds against Long Island Lutheran, one of the best teams in the country, in the Federation Class AA championship game.
The College of Charleston commit averaged 21.5 points and 10 rebounds per game for the state CHSAA AA champions in a 25-5 season. Although she’s a natural guard, Barbot would often play in the middle for the smaller Gaels lineup and never shied away from a tough defensive matchup.
Taylor Barbot, St. Mary’s, 5-8, G, Sr.
She contributed to every facet of the game as she averaged six points, nine rebounds and nine assists per game while playing incredible defense for the state CHSAA AA champions. The College of Charleston commit often assumed the true point guard role while looking to create for others before herself.
Caitlin Barrett, Manhasset, 5-7, G, Sr.
The moment never seemed too big for Barrett — and that was consistently on display throughout Manhasset’s run to the Long Island Class A championship. Barrett made a short jumper with 48.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter to give Manhasset a one-point lead in its 41-39 victory over Bethpage in the Nassau Class A semifinals. Less than two weeks later, she followed that by sinking the tying foul shot with 0.2 seconds left in regulation before scoring seven points in overtime in a 58-51 victory over Shoreham-Wading River in the Long Island Class A championship.
Barrett averaged 15.1 points per game, shot 53.1% and added 3.7 steals per game. Her stellar defense and athleticism helped Manhasset win its first county title in 30 years in a 24-2 season. She will play lacrosse at Duke.
Lacey Downey, West Babylon, 5-3, G, Sr.
Downey’s elite athleticism was her biggest difference-maker. She averaged 16.7 points and six steals per game for West Babylon, which lost to eventual Suffolk Class A champion Shoreham-Wading River, 53-51, in the Suffolk Class A semifinals. Downey, a five-year varsity player, is West Babylon’s all-time leading scorer for boys or girls with 1,258 points, and went 64-13 over those years, according to coach Ron Langella. She will play lacrosse at Boston College.
Payton Dulin, Baldwin, 5-8, G, Soph.
She averaged 17 points, six rebounds and four steals per game for the Long Island Class AA champions. Dulin led Nassau with 51 three-pointers in a 22-3 season as she showed the ability to consistently score from inside and outside. Dulin led Baldwin with 19 points in its 39-32 victory over Whitman in the Long Island Class AA championship.
Kayleigh Heckel, Long Island Lutheran, 5-9, G, Jr.
Heckel arrived at LuHi this season as more of a shooting guard but transformed her game to become the floor general for the Federation Class AA champions. She averaged 15.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, six assists and three steals per game and is considered one the top players in her class. Heckel had 22 points and seven assists when LuHi defeated La Jolla Country Day (CA), 63-50, in the championship game of the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona.
“I think Kayleigh is still learning what makes her really special,” coach Christina Raiti said. “Which is extremely dangerous and unbelievable.”
Iris Hoffman, Whitman, 5-5, G, Jr.
Hoffman is one of the most fun players to watch on Long Island. There is no pass she is incapable of making — whether that's a full-court throw or a dish in the paint. She averaged 11.5 points per game, 4.6 rebounds, five assists and 3.2 steals per game and made 56 three-pointers for the Suffolk Class AA and overall champions.
Hoffman had 10 points and seven assists in a 48-44 victory over Northport in the Suffolk Class AA final and had 16 points in a 39-32 loss to Baldwin in the Long Island Class AA championship. Hoffman raised her game in the playoffs, averaging 13.4 points, seven rebounds and 5.5 assists per game.
Syla Swords, Long Island Lutheran, 6-0, G, Jr.
The dynamic guard had a team-high 27 points in a 99-58 victory over St. Mary’s in the Federation Class AA final. She averaged 14.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game while playing tough, physical defense. The high Division I recruit is lethal from beyond the arc, leading the team with 66 three-pointers while shooting 42.3% from deep.
Long Island Coach of the Year: Christina Raiti, Long Island Lutheran
She guided Long Island Lutheran to its first Federation championship since 2015. LuHi also won the Nike Tournament of Champions this season, arguably the best regular-season tournament in the country. LuHi got its first No. 1 ranking in the country in program history as a part of a 23-3 season.
Nassau Coach of the Year: Lauren Sadeh, Manhasset
She guided Manhasset to its first county and Long Island championship since 1993, winning the first Class A title in program history in both.
Suffolk Coach of the Year: Dan Trebour, Whitman
He guided Whitman to its first county title in program history, winning the Suffolk Class AA and Suffolk overall title.