Iris Hoffman #21 of Whitman, center, celebrates with teammates Brianna...

Iris Hoffman #21 of Whitman, center, celebrates with teammates Brianna Verga #23, left, and Kasey Wagner #4 after the Wildcats' 48-44 win over top-seeded Northport in the Suffolk County girls basketball Class AA final at Island Federal Arena in Stony Brook on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023. Credit: James Escher

Whitman girls basketball coach Daniel Trebour describes Iris Hoffman as the team's "engine." After leading the program to its first Suffolk championship last season, the senior point guard and her teammates have their sights set on a repeat. Full. Steam. Ahead. 

“We’ve come so close over the last few years,” said Hoffman, a Newsday All-Long Island first-team selection who averaged 11.7 points, five rebounds and five assists per game last season and hit 55 three-pointers. “We’ve had deep runs into the playoffs, we’ve reached the final four, but to finally win it, it was a special feeling.”

It woudn't have been possible without Hoffman, who led the comeback win over Northport in the Suffolk final as her three-pointer gave Whitman its first lead late in the third quarter after trailing the entire first half. “She thrives under pressure," Trebour said, "and there have been moments where she turned games around for us.”

In a season of firsts — Whitman won 21 games, a school record, and also won the Suffolk overall title — the Wildcats made their debut in the Long Island championship. Hoffman led the way with 16 points and seven assists in a seven-point loss to Baldwin. Still, the experience, and being able to compete with the mighty Bruins, showed Hoffman and Whitman that it belonged. Now they're ready to take that next step.  

"We all have that fire in us to make it just as far and even farther than we did last year,” Hoffman said. “We’re 10 times more confident coming into this season. We already have the experience of making it to the LICs, and that’s a really important piece.”

Trebour knows it will be a challenge. 

“I tell them all the time that it’s not going to be given to us,” the coach said. “We have a very competitive schedule, and teams are going to come out and give us their best shot.”

Including Hoffman, Whitman has nine returning players. Senior forward Kathleen O’Mara and junior forward Brianna Verga both averaged nine points per game. Hoffman said Whitman's team chemistry both on and off the court are stronger than ever. 

“Most of us got pulled up to the varsity team at such a young age,” she said, “so we’ve been playing together for a while. Last year, we really saw all of that progression we’ve built over the years finally come together, and that’s just getting started.”

A team captain, Hoffman has embraced her leadership role for this season. "I’m definitely more relied on this year than I ever have been before,” she said. “I’ve learned to step up to be that leader and player on the court that everyone looks to.”

Sophomore Paige Hiller has experienced Hoffman’s leadership firsthand. “Iris is just always really uplifting,” she said. “She helps us be confident, she always hypes us up, and she’s always trying to help us get better”

On the court, it’s Hoffman’s unselfishness and ability to find open players that makes her such a special player. “Even though she’s usually our lead scorer, she never makes the game about herself,” Trebour said. “She has a pass-first mentality. She’s always looking to give the ball to someone with a better opportunity.”

Hoffman says the work they've put in during the offseason has prepared them for another successful run. “We’re more than ready for this season,” Hoffman said. “We know exactly what we need to do, and as long as we play our game, we know we can accomplish anything.”

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