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Prose and Kohn

The storylines of the early winter sports season

These high schoolers have taken their game to a new level in 2023-2024.

Sailors boys basketball Head Coach BJ Ivey always gets the most out of his teams.
Sailors boys basketball Head Coach BJ Ivey always gets the most out of his teams.
File photo
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We're approximately a month into the high school winter sports season and there has been some spectacular play across the area. 

As we head deeper into the final month of 2023, here are four storylines I'll be watching the rest of the way. 

The Sailors were no fluke.

Don't look now, but BJ Ivey's team is doing it again. 

Sarasota High boys basketball surprised many in the area, myself included, by going 21-6 last season — Ivey's first as head coach of the Sailors — after going 5-20 the previous season. I wasn't going to get caught off guard by the Sailors again this year, but I was curious how they would fair now that the magic from last season has faded. 

It turns out not much has changed. 

The Sailors are 7-1 this season, and the lone loss came against IMG Academy, the Ascenders' vaunted national team, to boot. So against anything you could call a high school basketball team in a traditional sense, the Sailors are undefeated. 

They're doing it by having different guys step up each game. Against Riverview High on Nov. 28, senior Franklin Liriano had 22 points in a 70-58 win. Against Mariner High on Dec. 2, freshman Johnny Lackaff made seven three-pointers in a 25-point effort, part of an 88-60 win. Against Braden River High on Dec. 5, senior Mike Drayton had 19 points and junior Oliver Boyle added a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. 

If anything, it appears this year's team could be deeper than last year's, which is trouble for opponents. 

Riverview High's Susan Lowther can do it all.

Can Susan Lowther save some talent for the rest of us?

Susan Lowther is proving to be dominant on the lacrosse court, in the discus circle and on the basketball court.
File photo

The Rams senior athlete proved last year that she is, quite literally, one of the best lacrosse goal-scorers in the entire country. She's committed to Ohio State University for that. Then she competed in the FHSAA Class 4A track and field state meet last spring and earned a silver medial in the discus (41.86 meters). 

Now, she's dominating on the basketball court. Though she's not leading the country in scoring, she is averaging a double-double with 12.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. The same strength she uses to muscle past lacrosse defenders and to launch the discus is what she uses to secure rebounds and go up for shots in crowded areas. 

Her play has helped the Rams to a 7-0 start in 2023-2024. She's not alone, of course. Sophomore Kennedy Guy actually leads the team in scoring at 16.9 points per game, and junior Ava Sims is giving the Rams 10.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Plus, as is Head Coach Gerald Perry's specialty, the team plays aggressive and tough defense. The Rams have held all but one opponent, Port Charlotte High, to 35 points or less. 

With the minutes Lowther and the rest of her teammates are giving Riverview, they'll be a tough out come the postseason. 

The Riverview High boys soccer team is a brick wall.

Since soccer is such a team game it can be difficult to assign credit for strong play. Offensively, this is less of an issue, as goals and assists sort themselves out. On the defensive end, though, it seems like everyone is important. 

That's why I'm assigning this section to the entire team. 

The Rams have played eight games (6-0-2) and have shut out their opponent four times, or half the time. That's the sign of strong defense and stout goalkeeping. Keep that up, and a lot more wins will be in Riverview's future.

While the Rams are not quite a scoring machine, they're doing plenty to stay above their opponents, averaging 2.88 goals per game as of Dec. 12. 

The key for the Rams is keeping up this level of play all season. Last year, Riverview actually had five clean sheets in its first eight games and used that early momentum to have strong defense play all year, but its offense struggled down the stretch and Riverview lost 4-1 in the regional quarterfinals to Newsome High. 

For a deeper run to be possible this year, the Rams will need to play complementary soccer on both sides of the ball. 

Cardinal Mooney High girls basketball tests itself.

After taking three trips to Lakeland for the Class 3A state tournament and coming home with zero titles, the Cardinal Mooney High girls basketball team is not taking the early part of the season easy. 

Mooney sophomore Kali Barrett skies for a layup at the Final Four.
File photo

Through its first eight games, the Cougars have played challenging team after challenging team, including the literal No. 2 team in the country in Montverde Academy (according to MaxPreps). They lost that game, 62-46, but they have come through the stretch winning just as many as they have lost (4-4). 

It's likely what the team needed. The Cougars graduated fiery leader Olivia Davis after last season — she's now playing for the University of Tampa — and had to figure out how to play without her, while also adding talented incoming freshmen like Madi Mignery. What better way to learn what the team can do than against the best of the best?

The team will still be playing a few tournaments at the end of December and beyond, but the rest of the schedule is filled with more local teams than the first eight games were. 

From what I can tell, the program will have another chance at a postseason run. Junior Kali Barrett is leading the team with 12 points per game while adding 7.9 rebounds per game. Junior Sy'monique Simon is averaging 10.3 points per game while still being a tough defender. And Mignery, the freshman, is nearly averaging a double-double at 9.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. By the end of the year, she may get there. 



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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