Lions ready for start of winter sports season

Lawrence High winter sports athletes pictured clockwise from front: Mayson Quartlebaum, basketball, Colton Khatib, swimming, Logan Farrell, wrestling, Sophie DeWitt, basketball and Kevin Honas, wrestling.

The latest winter sports season officially begins this week for Lawrence High.

Both wrestling and swimming will be in action Wednesday afternoon, while the girls basketball team is slated to begin its new campaign on Friday. The boys basketball team will take the floor on Saturday to help get the winter sports season in full swing.

Here is a look at all of the Lions’ winter sports programs before the upcoming season:

Boys basketball

Faces might change, but expectations don’t for the Lawrence High boys basketball program.

Despite returning just one starter from a team that went 19-4 a year ago, the Lions should still be a contender again this season. LHS was ranked No. 5 in Class 6A, according to the preseason poll by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association.

“We feel like we have a quality group who can play well together, count on each other and put the team before themselves,” said LHS head coach Mike Lewis, who enters his 11th year at the helm with a 148-80 record.

The Lions had a special season in 2018, winning the Sunflower League with a 10-2 record to go along with tournament titles in the Blue Valley Shootout and Topeka Invitational Tournament. They notched their eight consecutive winning record and earned their fifth straight trip to the Class 6A state tournament before falling in the first round.

Junior guard Zeke Mayo is the only returning starter from last year’s squad, though this team has plenty of talented payers. Senior Mayson Quartlebaum, a 6-foot-6 forward, has already signed to play at Kennesaw State at the collegiate level. Senior Bryce Johnson, a 6-foot-4 forward, has received an offer from Baker University.

Seniors Peyton Mallory, Willie Dotson, Valdez White, Gannon Hill, Ethan Bentzinger, Jordan Ott and Ruben Littlehead are all expected to contribute as well this year.

“We look forward to our seniors leading us to another successful season,” Lewis said.

LHS will travel to Liberty at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Girls basketball

It figures to be an interesting season for LHS girls basketball.

Chisom Ajekwu (center) and Hannah Stewart (point guard) are gone after holding down their respective spots for the last four years. Fortunately for the Lions, they have a strong senior class capable of filling that leadership void.

Seniors Sophie DeWitt, Ella Stewart and Paiden Bell will all embrace bigger roles for LHS this year. Junior Ozi Ajekwu, sophomore Layla Harjo and freshman Amaya Marshall will also have an impact on the varsity squad.

Despite the roster turnover from a team that went 12-10 last year, Lawrence has the same goals as it always does for the upcoming season.

“We are Lawrence High, so we are planning on working our tails off to get into the top-three in the Sunflower League and get ourselves in championship situations,” sixth-year head coach Jeff Dickson said. “We will work hard and play hard and play together.”

Lawrence travels to Topeka High (No. 1 in Class 6A) at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Wrestling

For the most part, Lawrence’s lineup will feature plenty of new wrestlers this year.

That being said, there are still a number of key returners that can help the Lions improve on their postseason standing. LHS finished seventh in the Sunflower League and 19th at the state meet last season.

Kevin Honas, who placed fifth at state a year ago, is back for LHS. Logan Farrell will be looking to make his third trip to the state wrestling meet this season. Dylan Gillespie, Zack Razak, Gentry Dennison and Will Maas are all key returners as well.

In addition, this will be the first season that LHS has a girls wrestling program.

“We have a lot of freshmen and new wrestlers on the team,” said Patrick Naughton, who is entering his 13th season. “Our goal (is) to improve upon last year at the league, regional and state tournaments. We build to the end of the year with the regional and state tournaments.”

Lawrence will travel to Gardner Edgerton for a dual at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Swimming

Lawrence could have a perfect balance of veterans and talented newcomers this year.

“We have several returners who should provide leadership and score well,” 14th-year-head coach Kent McDonald said. “We also have a good group of freshmen swimmers who should immediately make an impact.”

That type of recipe should help the Lions improve on their eight-place finish in Sunflower League. Tyler Jones will be a contender in the 500 freestyle at both Sunflower League and the state meet this season. In fact, he finished third in the 500 at Sunflower League last year.

Junior Andrew Augustine, sophomore diver Keyan Crawford and junior diver Salvador Good are all back for another season. Ryan Christian, Maxwell Cowardin, Giuliano Lule-Paredes, Christopher Oral and Max Whittaker will look to make an impact as freshmen.

Lawrence will compete in a meet at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Free State.

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