DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for more than three decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Gator hoops runs away from Corona del Sol

Just play defense and attack the basket, and everything should fall into place.

A simple approach that proved to be quite effective for Xavier Prep’s Gators as they rolled to a second straight lopsided win on Friday night (Dec. 6). This time, it was a 75-22 road conquest of Tempe Corona del Sol, just 24 hours after a 31-point road win over Mesa Desert Ridge.

Both games were marked by the use of a running clock in the fourth quarter, signifying a 30-point lead.

Xavier (5-2) now returns home to the Activity Center for two games next week, against Avondale Westview on Tuesday night (Dec. 10) and Phoenix Desert Vista on Dec. 13.

“This was a confidence-builder, showing us that if we continue to work hard, we can get better with things like discipline and sharing the ball,’’ said Gators coach Jennifer Gillom.

Xavier got a big night from senior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood. She had 20 points and 10 rebounds. But it didn’t stop there. The Gators came up with 33 steals, 18 more than the previous night, and had 20 offensive rebounds.

Once again, Gillom had the good fortune to be able to use her entire roster, providing experience that should come in handy as the season moves along.

Xavier had two other players score in double figures – freshman forward-post Mia Davis (14) and freshman point guard Sienna Cherwinski (11), who accounted for three of the team’s five 3-point baskets.

Xavier Prep 75, Corona del Sol 22

Xavier scoring – Elysia Fleetwood 20, Mia Davis 14, Sienna Cherwinski 11, Victoria Saucedo 9, Hannah Young 5, Mackenzie Coder 3, Channing Kehoe 3, Ireland Blim 3, Tanya Barakat 2, Toni Garcia 2, Lauren Etsitty 2, Sophie Sash 1.

Close, tough soccer match goes to Desert Vista

Two of the best high school girls soccer teams that Arizona has to offer met on Friday night (Dec. 6), and host Phoenix Desert Vista slipped past Xavier Prep 2-0.

Desert Vista was fourth in’s Super 10 preseason rankings and third on the 6A Conference list. Xavier was the No. 6 team in 6A.

Xavier (2-1) will play its next matches out of town, on Dec. 13 at Yuma Kofa and at the annual Excalibur tournament in Norco, Calif., on Dec. 26-27.

Friday, December 6, 2019

All-Arizona volleyball lists McKnight, Knight

Xavier Prep’s volleyball team is well-represented on this year’s All-Arizona Team.

Two senior Gators, outside hitter Bri McKnight and middle blocker Jasmine Knight, have been named to the eight-player honor team and are nominees for Player of the Year.

Both girls played major roles in Xavier’s rise to the 6A Conference state semifinals, where the team fell to Gilbert Highland to finish 30-12.

McKnight, who has signed with the University of California-Santa Barbara, had 500 kills and was a key factor with her defense along the back line and her strong, accurate serves.

Knight’s placement on the court screams defense, and she responded with numerous key blocks during the season. The Virginia Commonwealth commit also was an integral part of the offense with 447 kills. The power of those shots was impressive, most times raining straight down against helpless defenders.

Gators don't kid around -- they are all business

Jennifer Gillom wasn’t kidding.

Displeased with some of her Xavier Prep basketball team’s play in previous games, she promised her players that they would not much like what was in store for them during practices in the early part of this week.

And so the Gators went to work, concentrating on their defense.

“In our (daily) practices, we had an hour and 45 minutes of defense and only 15 minutes of offense,’’ Gillom said.

It paid off on Thursday night (Dec. 5) with a 60-29 victory on the road against Mesa Desert Ridge. A running clock was used because Xavier had a 30-point lead entering the fourth quarter.

The Gators raised their record to 4-2 and were due to play another road game on Friday night (Dec. 6) at Tempe Corona del Sol.

Xavier wasted no time applying what it learned, suffocating the Jaguars with full-court pressure in the first quarter. Desert Ridge, playing its third game in as many nights, could do very little and trailed 26-4 at the end of the quarter.

“We came out really focused,’’ Gillom said. “We (coaches) told the girls that our defense helps our offense and it leads to us having more scoring opportunities.’’

Xavier teams in recent years proved that, using superior quickness to dismantle opponents’ game plans.

On offense, the team continued to thrive on 3-point shots. Xavier connected on eight of them in the first half but dialed it back a bit in the second and made just one. Seven different players put their names on the long-range list.

“There also is rebounding, assists, sharing the ball and steals. All of it is something we need to build on,’’ Gillom said.

Freshman point guard Sienna Cherwinski led the Gators with 15 points, including three 3’s. Freshman inside player Mia Davis also hit a trey and finished with 13, and senior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood had 11, including a 3.

Xavier Prep 60, Desert Ridge 29

Xavier scoring – Sienna Cherwinski 15, Mia Davis 13, Elysia Fleetwood 11, Victoria Saucedo 7, Kailey Appel 3, Mackenzie Coder 3, Channing Kehoe 3, Hannah Young 2, Ireland Blim 2, Lauren Etsitty 1.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Gators' Robertson earns volleyball honor

It’s another big accomplishment for an Xavier Prep athlete!

Junior defensive specialist/libero Kaori Robertson has been selected to the Navajo Times’ 2019 Fall Sports All-Star Team, the first Xavier player to be so honored.

Robertson will travel to Shiprock, N.M., on Monday (Dec. 9) to receive her award.

Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant hit just the right note when she said, “Way to go, Kaori. We are proud of you!’’

Soccer: Just push button and a copy comes out

Xavier Prep’s soccer players liked what they did so much in a season-opening win over Tolleson High on Tuesday night (Dec. 3) that they made a copy in Game 2 on Wednesday night (Dec. 4) with the identical 8-0 score against visiting Phoenix Maryvale at Petznick Field.

Seniors Kaitlyn Lauck and Brynn Lebel led the way. Lauck scored two goals and Lebel scored a goal and added an assist for the Gators, who scored four goals in each half.

The Xavier Prep soccer team kneels in prayer before Wednesday night's match against Phoenix Maryvale (photo by Sr. Lynn Winsor).
Others who found the back of the net were sophomore Ansley Burns, senior Elizabeth Warren, junior Sophie Healy, senior Clara Lynch and sophomore Olivia Castrichini. Xavier coach Barb Chura praised the efforts of junior forward Kendall Warner, who had an assist and helped the offense run smoothly with some timely passing.

Junior Jaden Campbell and sophomore Delaney DeBusk were good in goal, helping to keep Maryvale off the board.

Xavier will play its first road match of the season on Friday (Dec. 6) against Phoenix Desert Vista in Ahwatukee. Start time is 6 p.m.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Gators' soccer opener is short and sweet

Even though all victories count the same on the regular-season chart, it seems like a win in the season opener always means more.

The momentum can carry a team and give its players more confidence moving forward.

So Xavier Prep’s Gators have to be feeling good after an 8-0 victory over visiting Tolleson High at Petznick Field on Tuesday night (Dec. 3).

The contest was stopped with 14:54 left in the second half, due to a new rule being implemented by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

It is similar to the 10-run rule in softball, where the game ends after five innings when one of the teams has a 10-run lead.

In soccer, if a team has an 8-goal lead at the match’s 60th minute (covering the 40-minute first half and the first 20 of the second), the contest is over.

Junior Kendall Warner got the Gators off to a quick start with a goal in the first 26 seconds. Sophomore Hennessy Perez scored with 14:03 left in the first half and Xavier took a modest 2-0 lead into the break.

Xavier scored six times in the second half, with goals by freshmen Eva Allen and Savannah Angell, sophomore Olivia Castrichini (two), junior Emmie Paulson and senior Kaitlyn Lauck.

“It was a good first game,’’ said Xavier coach Barb Chura.

The rain showers that descended on the field with about 20 minutes left in the game did not dampen the Gators’ resolve.

“We left some goals on the table in the first half, but in the second half, we were able to capitalize. We had more of a hunger to score,’’ Chura said.

The coach also was encouraged by the fact that she was able to “play pretty much everyone’’ on the roster.

Xavier has a quick turnaround and will have another home match, this one against Phoenix Maryvale, on Wednesday night (Dec. 4) beginning at 6. The Gators will play their first road match of the season on Friday (Dec. 6) at Phoenix Desert Vista in Ahwatukee.