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.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Soccer season done, but players' spirit survives

The large, clear, storage-type bags were full of ice and stacked behind the Xavier Prep bench, where Xavier certified athletic trainer Laurie White had set up shop for the team’s 6A Conference first-round state tournament game at Chandler Basha on Saturday (Feb. 15).

White apparently would need most of them.

It had been that kind of game. Xavier knew the contest would be physical, just as on Jan. 24 when the teams first met at Basha and Basha won 2-0.

Both teams’ players tumbled into the dust of the yellowish turf from time to time. Some were fender-benders, others had a greater impact. White certainly was busy, dealing with various bumps and bruises and even a likely concussion.

It all came down to overtime. Basha’s Kallie White scored her second goal of the day with about five minutes left in the first of two 10-minute extra sessions, and the sixth-seeded Bears survived with a 2-1 victory over the No. 11 Gators.

A few of the Gators limped off the field afterward, some with faces flushed on the warm, sunny afternoon.

The most remarkable take-away from this was even though the battle scars were there, nobody could kill the Gators’ spirit. It had been the same way all winter, when the team finished with an extremely deceptive 7-9-1 record. That included a tie against one of the nation’s top teams (Scottsdale Chaparral) and overtime losses to a pair of other title contenders (Gilbert Perry and Chandler Hamilton).

White, a 5-foot-10 senior, used that height to her advantage on both of her goals for the Bears (14-6), who move on to face third-seeded Gilbert Highland in a quarterfinal match at Highland on Tuesday night (Feb. 18).

White’s first goal came with a little more than 10 minutes into the first half on a scramble in front of the goal following a corner kick. The decisive overtime goal came with about 5 minutes left in the first overtime when White guided the ball off another corner kick, but not to the back of the net. The referees ruled that the shot had crossed the plane of the goal.

“The guy (lead official) said it was in, so you have to try to get it back,’’ said Xavier coach Barb Chura.

Xavier’s goal, with 12:07 left in regulation, also was interesting.

Time was starting to run out on the Gators when junior Brooke Bream, one of her team’s tallest players and one who excels on throw-ins, tossed the ball from the right sideline, not quite at the corner, and the ball sailed over everyone in front of the goal and was touched by the Basha goalkeeper just inside the plane of the goal.

Early in the second overtime, Xavier had a good chance to tie it, but the Basha goalkeeper was able to grab a straight-away shot by freshman Eva Allen.

Of the game in general, Chura said, “It was not our kind of game (physical).

“We (Chura and long-time assistant Rafael Rios) are proud of this year’s team.  I hope they (players) are happy and that all of them come back next year.

“I think the teams we played this year really respected us and how we played. We had a lot of good, young players and our goalkeeper (junior Jaden Campbell) really developed late in the season.

“We have a lot of bright kids and what they do in the classroom transfers over to the field. Hopefully everybody is motivated by that.’’

Gators meet Westwood in hoops first round

Fresh off a 79-53 victory over Mesa Red Mountain in a 6A Conference “play-in’’ game on Thursday night (Feb. 13), Xavier Prep’s basketball team will hit the road for a first-round state tournament game at Mesa Westwood on Tuesday (Feb. 18). Tipoff is 7 p.m.

Xavier (18-10) is the No. 10 seed, and Westwood (23-4) is No. 7.
The winner of this game will advance to a Feb. 20 quarterfinal game against the winner of a first-round game between No. 15 Mesa High and No. 2 Phoenix Pinnacle.

Friday, February 14, 2020

XCP soccer gets another chance at Basha

After a solid 4-0 victory over visiting Yuma Cibola in Thursday night’s 6A Conference soccer “play-in’’ game, Xavier Prep advances to Saturday’s (Feb. 15) first round of the state tournament against host Chandler Basha.

Bring your shades. The 2 p.m. contest should be bright and sunny.

Xavier (7-8-1) is the No. 11 seed, just as it was a year ago after a win over Mesa Westwood in the play-in. Xavier fell to No. 6 seed Gilbert Highland in the first round.

Basha (13-6) is this year’s No. 6 seed. The Bears had a battle on their hands when they faced Xavier on Jan. 24 at Basha before escaping with a 2-0 victory.

Xavier has been extremely competitive all season, and the win over Cibola should give the Gators a boost.

Junior Kendall Warner broke the ice for Xavier against Cibola with the Gators’ only first-half goal. Scoring Xavier goals in the second half were sophomore Ansley Burns, senior Elizabeth Warren and senior Taylor Brown. Warren, in particular, played a key leadership role throughout.

This year’s top-seeded team is defending champion Scottsdale Chaparral.

6A Conference first-round soccer schedule

All games, 2 p.m.

(Seedings in parentheses)

Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (16) at Scottsdale Chaparral (1), Mesa Desert Ridge (9) at Mesa Red Mountain (8), Peoria Liberty (12) at Phoenix Pinnacle (5), Phoenix Mountain Pointe (13), Phoenix Desert Vista (4), Surprise Shadow Ridge (14) at Gilbert Highland (3), Xavier Prep (11) at Chandler Basha (6), Queen Creek (10) at Chandler Hamilton (7), Tempe Corona del Sol (15) at Gilbert Perry (2).

Gator basketball ready to "go for it'

“We made it to state. Why not go for it?’’

That’s the assessment of Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom after the Gators’ 79-53 victory over visiting Mesa Red Mountain in a 6A Conference “play-in’’ game on Thursday night (Feb. 13).

The win allows Xavier (18-10) to advance to the first round of the state tournament on Tuesday (Feb. 18), a road game with the opponent to be announced on Saturday (Feb. 15). There are no more home games from here on out.

Xavier entered the play-in as the 10th overall seed, while Red Mountain (8-19) was 23rd. Xavier will play one of the top eight seeds in the opening round.

The Gators had consistency across the board against Red Mountain, “and it came at the right time. We don’t need to be on a rollercoaster now,’’ Gillom said.

The coach was pleased with the team’s balanced scoring as well as the defensive effort.

Eleven players scored, with senior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood coming up with one of her best games of the season with a game-high 29 points. Freshman inside player Mia Davis was next with 13 points.

Xavier got away to a good start in the first quarter, with junior guard Channing Kehoe providing some scoring fuel with a pair of 3-point baskets.

Kehoe helped pick up the slack caused by the absence of junior guard Mackenzie Coder, who was on crutches after suffering a knee injury in te regular-season finale against defending state champion Chandler Hamilton on Tuesday night (Feb. 11). It is not known whether she will be sidelined again.

Fleetwood scored 10 points in the second quarter as the Gators had a firm grip on the lead.

Xavier had 10 3-point backets for the game, including one by former Red Mountain player Kailey Appel, who transferred to XCP after her freshman season in Mesa. Her father, Martin, coached the Mountain Lions for a number of years, including a state title season led by Kayla Pedersen, who went on to play collegiately at Stanford and in the WNBA.

Xavier Prep 79, Red Mountain 53

Xavier scoring – Elysia Fleetwood 29, Mia Davis 13, Tori Saucedo 8, Channing Kehoe 6, Toni Garcia 6, Sophie Sash 6, Kailey Appel 4, Rachel Orr 2, Ireland Blim 2, Lauren Etsitty 2, Tanya Barakat 1.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Hoops will host Red Mountain in "play-in' game

The Xavier Prep campus will be busy on Thursday night (Feb. 13).

The school’s soccer team will host a previously announced 6A Conference “play-in’’ game, and on Wednesday (Feb. 12), the basketball team received word that it, too, will host a play-in.

The soccer game will have Yuma Cibola paying a visit to Petznick Field. The basketball team (17-10) was the No. 10 in Arizona Interscholastic Association power points and will host a play-in game at the Activity Center against No. 23 Mesa Red Mountain (8-18).

Game times are 6 p.m. for soccer and 7 p.m. for basketball.

Play-in winners will advance to the first round of their respective state tournaments, soccer on Saturday (Feb. 15) and basketball on Tuesday (Feb. 18).

Go Gators !!

6A basketball play-in games

All games, Thursday at 7 p.m.

(Seedings in parentheses)

Laveen Cesar Chavez (24) at Phoenix Mountain Pointe (9), Mesa High (17) at Tucson High (16), Phoenix North (18) at Phoenix Desert Vista (13), Mesa Mountain View (21) at Yuma Cibola (12), Glendale Mountain Ridge (22) at Scottsdale Chaparral (11), Avondale Westview (20) at Gilbert Highland (13), Chandler Basha (19) at Anthem Boulder Creek (14), Mesa Red Mountain (23) at Xavier Prep (10).

Hamilton humbles Gators in hoops finale

The basketball regular season ended for Xavier Prep on Tuesday night (Feb. 11) with a 60-34 loss at Chandler Hamilton.

Now the Gators are looking ahead to a 6A Conference “play-in’’ game on Thursday night (Feb. 13), with the winner advancing to the first round of the state tournament next week.

Xavier (17-10) will host the play-in game at 7 p.m. against Mesa Red Mountain. Play-in games were announced Wednesday (Feb. 12).

Tuesday’s score was nearly identical to the one in the teams’ first meeting at Xavier on Jan. 24, when defending state champion Hamilton recorded a 60-29 triumph.

In the first quarter of Tuesday night’s game, Xavier appeared to come out with a more aggressive mindset.  The Gators led 9-6 on a 3-point basket by junior Kailey Appel with about 3 ½ minutes to play, but then . . .

Hamilton (20-6) scored 10 unanswered points to close out the quarter to gain control.

The Huskies began to utilize their pressure defense, which made it difficult to move the ball without turning it over.

Hamilton had a similar run late in the second quarter, led by guard Victoria Davis, one of three seniors honored on the school’s Senior Night. Davis, who recently became the sixth player in school history to surpass the 1,000-point mark in her career, led a balanced effort on the night with a team-leading 11 points.

Hamilton held Xavier to a combined 15 points in the second half to win going away.

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom said “I thought we would come out and have a great game. But it showed that we need to handle pressure better. We are still lacking some of that leadership.

“We can try to learn from this and play better in the playoffs and next year, keep it moving.’’

Senior Elysia Fleetwood led the Gators with 12 points, and junior Tori Saucedo had 9.

Hamilton 60, Xavier Prep 34

Xavier scoring –Elysia Fleetwood 12, Tori Saucedo 9, Kailey Appel 3, Sophie Sash 3, Mia Davis 2, Sienna Cherwinski 2, Sophia Alameddin 2, Hannah Young 1.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Gator soccer hosts Cibola in "play-in'' game

The stage has been set, and Xavier Prep is the No. 11 team in 6A Conference soccer power points and will compete in a “play-in’’ game on Thursday night (Feb. 13) to determine which team will advance to the first round of the state tournament on Saturday (Feb. 15).

Xavier, at 6-8-1, will host Thursday’s game at Petznick Field against No. 22 Yuma Cibola (6-6-3).

The winner will face a road game against a higher seed on Saturday. The top eight seeds avoid the play-in.

Though its record might not indicate so, Xavier has been playing some of its most competitive soccer of the season recently, falling just short in double-overtime losses against highly regarded Gilbert Perry and Chandler Hamilton.

6A Conference play-in schedule

All games, Thursday at 6 p.m.

(Seedings in parentheses)

Glendale Mountain Ridge (24) at Mesa Desert Ridge (9), Tucson High (17) at Tempe Corona del Sol (16), Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (18) at Anthem Boulder Creek (15), Avondale La Joya (21) at Peoria Liberty (12), Yuma Cibola (22) at Xavier Prep (11), Mesa Mountain View (20) at Phoenix Mountain Pointe (13), Chandler High (19) at Surprise Shadow Ridge (14), Mesa Dobson (23) at Queen Creek (10).