Kate Koval leads Long Island Lutheran girls to GEICO Nationals championship game
Kate Koval and the Long Island Lutheran girls basketball team’s season may almost be over, but they aren’t tired, aren’t bored and certainly aren’t done.
The work never stops for one of the country’s best high school teams, and neither does the winning.
Last weekend, it was capturing a New York State Federation title. This weekend, it could be a national one.
LuHi, led by a single-game tournament record of 38 points from Koval, topped Maryland’s McDonogh, 76-65, in the semifinals of the GEICO High School Basketball Nationals at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers, Florida.
LuHi will face Florida’s Montverde Academy at 10 a.m. Saturday in the championship game.
“I recognized my strength early in the game, that no one can guard me down low,” said Koval, who grabbed 16 rebounds. “Today, the mentality was that no one can guard me and I’m just going to keep going until somebody stops me.”
Syla Swords had 13 points and Kayleigh Heckel added eight. LuHi shot 44% (28-for-63) from the field and 22% from three-point range (4-for-18). McDonogh, led by Maryland commit Ava McKennie’s 17 points, shot 36% from the field and 15% from three-point range.
Despite the poor shooting numbers, McDonogh — which dressed only seven girls — refused to go away, consistently hanging around while LuHi’s lead never eclipsed 13 points.
Koval, Swords and coach Christina Raiti each mentioned fixing the defensive effort as a major key for Saturday’s title game.
Said Swords: “As guards, we have to keep people in front of us. It’s tough for the bigs when we put that much pressure on them and are picking up fouls. We just have to be better with our footwork and be more mentally strong on the defensive end with keeping our man in front.”
So what to do in Florida in late March with an entire day ahead of you?
How about a shoot-around? LuHi was back on the hardwood for a late-afternoon session, getting those final hours in before a potential national championship kind of Saturday.
“We’ll have a walk-through just to get us where we need to be defensively,” Swords said, “We’ll go through our rotations and possessions. It really never stops.”