Senior Marko Trajanovski began this season hoping to contribute to the Lyons Township boys swimming and diving team’s freestyle relays.

To his initial surprise, he soon became anchor and now is delivering his fastest in-season splits ever.

“I would usually just lead off the relay. Now I’m in a good spot with anchoring,” Trajanovski said. “Especially when there’s someone right next to you, you can hear the crowd and all of the voices. I’m OK with that. I like being under pressure.”

Trajanovski is among numerous Lions hoping to earn their first berths to the state meet at the IHSA Sectional at Hinsdale Central on Feb. 18 with first-place finishes or by achieving state-qualifying standards at the meet.

Out of the Lions’ projected sectional lineup of 13, senior Quinn Collins and junior diver Matt Adler are the only ones with state meet experience. Only Trajanovski (50-yard freestyle) and sophomore Lachlan Gantt (500 free) also have sectional experience.

“In the past, our relay focus has been more on state [event finals Saturday. This year our relay focus is wanting to make sure we’re getting to state,” LTHS swim coach Erin Rodriguez said. “It’s trying to get these boys that state experience.” 

On Feb. 3, the Lions (239) finished third to host Hinsdale Central (344) and Oak Park and River Forest (268) at the West Suburban Conference Silver Division Meet.

Adler was second in diving (395.60 points) and Collins was third in the 100 backstroke (53.30).

The 200 medley relay (Collins, Jack Dillon, Peter Smith, Trajanovski (1:42.30) and 400 free relay (Quinn Collins, Sean Gripp, Garrett Walls and Trajanovski in 3:20.49) were third. Gripp was fourth in the 100 free (49.01).

Trajanovski is hopeful strong tapers will boost the Lions at sectionals. He’s already enjoyed breakthroughs with his first in-season sub-50 splits in the 400 relay against York Jan. 13 (49.70) and the LT Invite on Jan. 28 (49.85).

“He’s been anchoring those relays like it’s his job. He’s gotten confident back there,” Rodriguez said. “You need to enjoy stepping up like that, having the pressure on you. I’ve seen him these last few weeks really grow into that.”

LTHS boys basketball

Seniors Jackson Niego and Carter Reid were among LTHS boys basketball players loudly celebrating after their 62-40 victory at Hinsdale South on Feb. 4.

The Lions (21-4) completed a successful weekend after also winning at York 71-66 on Feb. 3 following a tough 54-47 loss at Downers Grove North that leaves them a third-place 6-3 in the West Suburban Silver, two games behind first-place Hinsdale Central (24-3, 8-1).

Reid (20 points, 6 rebounds) achieved his first 20-point varsity game Saturday. Niego (10 points, 5 rebounds), Nik Polonowski (8 points), Louis Kaminski (6 points) and Matthew DeSimone (6 rebounds) were other contributors.

“I wouldn’t have had any of those looks if I didn’t get the ball from the guys on the outside and even the guys on the inside,” Reid said. “I think mainly it’s our ball movement, getting the ball where it needs to be to get the advantage on offense.”

The Lions play host Feb. 11 to Hinsdale Central, which also has Proviso West (7-19, 0-8) and Glenbard West (16-9, 6-3) remaining. Second-place Downers North (23-3, 8-2) still plays Glenbard West and Oak Park and River Forest (9-13, 3-5).

“It was a good weekend for the guys. They were excited,” LTHS coach Tom Sloan said. “It’s that grind time of the season. We’ve played a lot of good teams. The kids came out with a lot of enthusiasm and energy [Feb. 4] and played well on both ends of the floor. We got a chance for everybody to play.”

Niego (18 points), Brady Chambers (14 points, 4 rebounds) and Polonowski (10 points, 5 rebounds) reached double figures against York (12-15, 2-9). Other standouts were DeSimone (8 points), Reid (6 points, 4 rebounds) and Smith (4 points). The Lions dominated 30-10 in paint points to overcome York’s 11 threes.   

A rough shooting start left the Lions chasing Downers North 19-10 at halftime. 

Niego (17 points), Reid (9 points, 5 rebounds), Connor Carroll (7 points, 6 rebounds) and Polonowski and Smith (6 points each) contributed for LTHS. 

The Lions won the first meeting 39-38 on Jan. 6 on a late jumper by Niego. This time, they trailed by 18 but closed to within six points by the final minute.

“A tremendous effort by our guys defensively. Just not enough time to come back,” Sloan said. “We didn’t play our best but a lot of it had to do with Downers North playing very well.”