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Prime Performers

Central Florida once again boasts a talented crop of student-athletes looking to leave their mark in the winter season.

Although the fall season has certainly come with its share of challenges in high school athletics, we have learned that sports can go on and create some sense of normalcy for players, coaches and fans during these chaotic times. The winter will bring its own unique obstacles—particularly for indoor sports like basketball and wrestling—and some games will surely have to be postponed if not altogether canceled. But all of those involved have learned to be grateful for whatever time they have on the court, the mat or the pitch, and plenty of memorable moments await local teenagers in the coming months.

These standout athletes are prepared for whatever comes their way, and you can bet on them shining on the biggest stages no matter what it takes to get there.

Boys basketball
Jayden Battle, The First Academy, senior: Battle, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard, averaged 15.6 points per game last year to lead the Royals in scoring and added 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals. Known for being a great teammate in addition to his scoring ability, he hopes to play at the collegiate level.

Javon Bennett, Trinity Prep, junior: In just two seasons, Bennett has already hit the 1,000-point milestone for his career and set a school record with 46 points in a game. The dynamic guard was named all-state by the Florida Athletic Coaches Association last year, and Trinity Prep coach Irwin Hudson calls him one of the best players he has worked with in his 28-year career, lauding his athleticism and high basketball IQ.

Caleb Houstan, Montverde Academy, senior: A native of Canada, Houstan is a 6-foot-8, 205-pound wing who can play either forward spot and possesses an outstanding outside shot. He is considered a top-10 recruit nationally and recently announced four finalists in his college search: Duke, Virginia, Michigan and Alabama.

Elijah Hulsewe, Windermere Prep, senior: Hulsewe has made great strides over the course of his career and his progress resulted in a big junior year in which he broke the school record for rebounds in a season and was the team’s second-leading scorer. The 6-foot-11 center has received recruiting interest from a number of schools, including Jacksonville, Florida Gulf Coast and UNC Wilmington.

Michael James, Oak Ridge, senior: James, a 6-foot-6 wing, poured in 18.2 points per game last year to go with 6.3 rebounds and led Oak Ridge to the 7A state semifinals and a 21-9 final record. He committed to Louisville in September, picking the Cardinals over schools such as Arkansas, Alabama, Texas A&M and Cincinnati.

Kanye Jones, Windermere, senior: A three-year varsity player, Jones averaged 19 points per game last season and will look to go over 1,000 for his career this winter. He is committed to the College of Charleston.

John Latimer III, Apopka, senior: A three-year starter at point guard, Latimer has twice led Apopka to the state playoffs, including one Sweet 16 appearance and a No. 1 ranking in Florida. He scored 524 points last year—the fourth-best single-season total in program history—and has 817 points for his career, 15th on the school’s all-time list. Off the court he is a member of the National Honor Society and the City of Apopka Youth Council.

Trey Moss, Windermere, senior: Moss is a four-year starter at point guard who led Central Florida in assists last year and is already a member of the 1,000-point club. He will continue his career at the University of South Florida.

Fanbo Zeng, Windermere Prep, junior: Zeng may stand 6-foot-9 but he has guard skills and contributes in multiple ways for Windermere Prep. He averaged 15.5 points, 7.2 boards and 2.6 blocks last year to lead the Lakers to a 27-4 record and was named to the all-state team by the Florida Association of Basketball Coaches. A member of the Chinese junior national team, he has scholarship offers from Florida, Florida State and Gonzaga, among others.

Girls basketball
Sophya Barreiro, Colonial, sophomore: Barreiro emerged as Colonial’s starting point guard as a freshman and displayed a great feel for the game. She led the team in just about every statistical category and averaged 11.4 points, 2.3 assists and 3.2 steals per game.

Kayla Blackshear, Lake Highland Prep, senior: Blackshear is making her basketball-crazed family proud with her accomplishments on the court. The 6-foot-1 forward averaged 10.5 points and 6.2 rebounds last year, was named MVP of the Crescom Bank Holiday Invitational and helped lead Lake Highland Prep to a 29-2 record. She will follow in the footsteps of her parents and two older brothers by playing at the Division I level, as she has committed to Alabama, choosing the Crimson Tide over North Carolina and LSU, among others.

Alyssa Doyle, Oviedo, senior: A shooting guard/small forward, Doyle led Oviedo in scoring last year and was named to the Seminole Athletic Conference first team. She enters her senior season with 921 career points and should hit the 1,000-point milestone within the first week or two.

Nyla Harris, Lake Highland Prep, junior: Harris transferred from The First Academy to Lake Highland Prep last year and had an immediate impact. She led the team in scoring with 11.3 points per game, tied for the team lead with 6.2 rebounds and finished with 20 points, five boards and three blocks in the 4A final to spark the Highlanders to their first state championship since 2016. She has college offers from the likes of South Carolina, Louisville, Florida State, Texas and Auburn.

Savannah Henderson, Timber Creek, junior: Henderson made her presence felt in multiple ways last season, as she averaged 16.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 2.2 steals. She helped lead Timber Creek to a historic season, as the Wolves captured their second straight district championship, their first-ever regional title and made the 7A state final four.

Boys soccer
Matt Ahl, Trinity Prep, junior: An anchor on Trinity Prep’s defense, Ahl was named to the Florida Athletic Coaches Association all-state team last year. He became the only sophomore to be selected captain in coach Ray Sandidge’s 21 years of coaching, and Sandidge calls him “the ultimate competitor with a work ethic that is second to none.”

Reeves Oakman, West Orange, senior: A three-year varsity starter, Oakman is not only West Orange’s best defender but also its emotional leader. A two-time captain and three-time all-Metro Conference selection, he is also an excellent student with a 4.5 weighted GPA. He will continue his career at Whitworth University.

Girls soccer
Kate Busbee, Bishop Moore, senior: Busbee was not only the backbone of Bishop Moore’s defense, but also contributed seven goals and two assists as the Hornets posted an 18-7 record. She will serve as team captain this season.

Aliya Lentowicz, Edgewater, senior: Lentowicz is a four-year varsity starter and was named the team’s co-defensive player of the year last season. A team captain, she also has a long list of accomplishments off the field. She has been in the STEM Engineering Magnet program at Edgewater for four years and has a 4.56 GPA. She is hoping to get an engineering degree in college.

Raisa Lugo, Oviedo, senior: Whether she was setting up her teammates for goals or finishing herself, Lugo was an explosive playmaker last year. She finished with 26 goals and 13 assists and was named to the all-state team by the United Soccer Coaches Association. She helped Oviedo to a 14-4-2 record.

Areli Patricio, Wekiva, senior: Patricio, a center defensive midfielder, is a team captain for Wekiva and a three-time all-Metro Conference selection. She is verbally committed to Columbia State in Tennessee and plans to major in pre-law, with the ultimate goal of becoming an immigration attorney.

Kyleigh Thelen, Oviedo, senior: Thelen showed off her versatility last year, recording 15 goals and 12 assists at forward while also spending time at center back and leading the defense. She was recognized as the Orlando Sentinel Player of the Year and was also named to the all-state team by the United Soccer Coaches Association. She helped Oviedo reach the 7A regional final.

Boys wrestling
Trenton Dominguez, Timber Creek, junior: Dominguez took second at regions and fifth at 3A states as a 106-pounder last year. He recorded 50 wins.

Bailey Flanagan, Lake Highland Prep, junior: Flanagan claimed the 170-pound 1A state championship last year to cap a 38-9 season. Lake Highland Prep will no longer be competing as a member of the Florida High School Athletic Association in wrestling as it focuses on a national schedule, so Flanagan will not be able to defend his state crown. But he will look to shine at the National Prep Championships instead.

Danny Nini, Lake Highland Prep, junior: Competing at 126 pounds last season, Nini won 40 matches and his second state championship in three years.

Gabe Rendon, Oviedo, senior: Rendon was a region runner-up and took fifth at 120 pounds at 3A states last year, finishing with a 42-8 record.

Jayden Tapia, Timber Creek, senior: Tapia is a three-time Metro Conference champion, a two-time district champ and a two-time state qualifier during his memorable career. He went 55-6 and placed third at 3A states at 126 pounds as a junior. He enters his final campaign with 108 career wins.

Gavin Wheeler, Bishop Moore, senior: A three-time state qualifier, Wheeler placed fourth at states last year in the 152-pound 1A bracket. He brings a sterling 126-44 career record into his senior season.

Girls wrestling
Juliana Diaz, Dr. Phillips, junior: After finishing as a state runner-up as a freshman, Diaz brought home the 117-pound state title last year thanks to four pins in five matches, including the final. She also repeated as Metro Conference champion and enters her junior season ranked 14th nationally in her weight class.

Chloe Ogden, Lake Highland Prep, senior: Ogden earned the 140-pound state title last year with a major decision in the final, her second time atop the podium. She was also ranked second in the country for her weight class by USA Wrestling.

Armelle Oliantus, Dr. Phillips, senior: Oliantus made quite an impression in her first season of wrestling, as she was the Metro Conference and state champion at 164 pounds. She recorded four pins at states.

Amber Powell, Evans, senior: Powell is a two-time state placewinner, finishing third at 197 pounds in 2019 and fifth at 220 pounds last season. She also took third at the 2020 Lady Bear Invitational.

Livia Santos, Olympia, senior: Santos has been involved in jiu jitsu since the age of 5 and has won several national tournaments in recent years. That background has helped her to excel in wrestling as well, as she has placed in the top five at states the last two years. A 128-pounder, she has her sights on a state title for her final season.

This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s November 2020 issue.