The 2020-21 high school girls basketball season had its challenges because of COVID-19, but this year’s Deseret News Players of the Year elevated their games and that of their teammates throughout the season regardless.
Some ended with a state championship trophy, others did not, but all left a lasting impression on the season — with several etching their names in the state record book along the way.
Here’s a look the 2020-2021 Deseret News girls Players of the Year who made the biggest difference in leading their teams to great success.
6A Player of the Year
Lealani Falatea, Herriman — Sr., 5-9, G
There’s one word to describe Lealani Falatea on the basketball court — winner.
After a crazy successful three-year stint at East High, Falatea’s family moved to Herriman for her senior season and not surprisingly she turned the Mustangs into an instant contender.
By averaging 17.0 points, 3.8 assists and 2.2 steals, she led the Mustangs to a 23-2 record and a 6A runner-up finish behind undefeated Fremont.
“The main thing about Nani is that she just wants to win. She will do whatever it takes to win each game. She is a point guard and had to guard other team’s power forward because we were so small this year. She just has the knack to make everyone around her better,” said Herriman coach Kent Smith about his elite shooter.
In Falatea’s four-year career as a varsity starter her teams went 84-18, and she’s been named a Deseret News MVP twice.
Falatea set a new single-season state record with 84 3-pointers this year, and her 239 career 3-pointers ranks second all-time, just 11 shy of the 250 state record.
5A Player of the Year
Kayla Jackson, Springville — Sr., 5-8, G
One of Springville’s top returning players from last year’s 5A runner-up team, Kayla Jackson was instrumental in getting the Red Devils over the top during a very consistent senior season.
She averaged 13.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.3 steals.
“Kayla is one of the hardest workers I know. She has this drive for always wanting to get better and always looking for ways to improve. Because of her hard work she has become an amazing player,” said Springville coach Holli Averett. “She has the ability to knock down 3s and take it to the rim, which makes her tough to guard. She is a great leader and example on our team. She has brought the mentality of putting in the extra work, and her teammates followed her example.”
She was the perfect fit for Springville’s defensive-first mentality. The Red Devils gave up the fewest points of any team from 6A to 2A, and Jackson’s relentless commitment to that side of the ball was one of the catalysts.
Whether it was leading the team in scoring, or locking down defensively on an opponent’s top scorer, Jackson did whatever was necessary.
4A Player of the Year
Amber Kartchner, Logan — Sr., 5-10, G/F
A pure scorer from the moment she stepped on Logan’s court for the first time as a freshman, Amber Kartchner wrapped up an incredible career this season and will go down as one of the best in state history.
The BYU commit finished the year averaging 21.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3.8 steals to lead Logan to a 4A runner-up finish.
She finished with 1,717 career points, which ranks sixth in state history.
“What makes Amber so special is her competitive drive and her ability to elevate everyone around her on and off the court. Amber is not only impressive because of her ability to score but her ability to play incredible defense, see the floor, make the open pass, and contribute in all aspects of the game,” said Logan first-year coach Morganne Madsen. “I think her stats speak for themselves and represent that. They show the hard worker she is and her will to compete. I’m so impressed with her humility, her ability to be a good teammate, and the accountability she has for herself.”
Kartchner saved some of her best for last, scoring a career-high 38 points in a semifinal win over Pine View this year and then added 27 more in the final of a two-point loss to Sky View.
3A Player of the Year
Teya Sidberry, Judge Memorial — Jr., 6-0, F
Teya Sidberry’s talent and work ethic were unmatched in 3A again this year.
The junior averaged a double-double with 29.6 points and 12.7 rebounds and finished as the state’s leading scorer in leading the Bulldogs to the 3A quarterfinals and 15 wins.
“Teya is a one-of-a-kind player, she puts in more work than anyone I know,” said Judge coach Josh Pike. “Teya is a coach’s dream. She is always coachable and willing to do what helps the team win. I have known Teya for 12 years now and she has been working this hard from the day I met her.”
She also maintains a solid GPA, is on Judge’s student court and dances at Judge.
Sidberry finished with 591 points, and for her career has scored 1,666 points, which ranks eighth in state history. She should easily get to No. 2 by the end of her senior season, where she will look to lead Judge to its first state title in school history.
2A Player of the Year
Marci Richins, North Summit — Jr., 5-10, F
Marci Richins was a double-double machine for North Summit as she was instrumental in helping the Braves capture their first state title since 1986.
Richins finished the season averaging 15.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 4.3 steals and 2.7 assists, which included scoring a career-high 30 points in the 2A state championship win against Kanab.
“The best thing about Marci’s incredible jumping ability is her timing. She was able to create a lot of chaos at the top of our half-court trap with her ability to get a hand on the ball to redirect passes,” said North Summit coach Jerre Holmes. “She is an outstanding rebounder and scorer, and she also has become a great passer from post to post when teams collapse on her. Her unselfishness made her an all-around great player.”
Holmes described the tandem of point guard Hadley Richins and big Marci Richins as North Summit’s equivalent to Stockton and Malone.
This is Richins’ second MVP award this school year, as she was named the 2A MVP in volleyball.
1A Player of the Year
Kassidy Westwood, Piute — Jr., 5-5, G
A coach’s kid who’s never taken playing time for granted, Kassidy Westwood came up huge throughout her junior season in leading Piute to its first state championship since 2010.
She finished the year averaging 14.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.0 steals, and was at her best in two very close games to end the season.
In Piute’s 53-51 semifinal win over Wayne she scored 21 points, and the following night in a 44-40 title game win over Valley she led Piute again with 14 points.
“What can I say without boasting too much about my daughter on our team, who brought her A game every single night. Kassidy is a player that any coach would want on their team,” said Piute coach Tim Westwood. “I asked a lot of her throughout the season, to not only guard the best player and shut her down, but to also handle the ball and score for us. She led our team not only in scoring, and assists, but most importantly was a team player, who wasn’t in it for the stats, but the success of the team.”