Basketball has become a sport in which players play and think about the game 24-7, either through club ball or high school summer leagues.
Xavier Prep’s girls are out on the court at nearly full force for the Thunderbird (High) Summer League in north Phoenix. The XCP junior varsity also is competing.
The Gators went to 2-1 after a 48-29 victory over Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor on Monday (June 5). Xavier will have one more game this week, on Wednesday (June 7) at 8 p.m., and will play three more times after that as the league wraps up with playoffs the last week of June.
On days when the team has no game, the girls practice in one of the gyms on campus.
After struggling in its first game at T-Bird, Xavier has looked good against Avondale Westview and Sandra Day O’Connor.
Jennifer Gillom, who returns to the bench as head coach after a few seasons as an assistant, said she is encouraged by the Gators’ recent play.
“The first game was a “learning game’ for a number of reasons, but we’ve been improving since then,’’ Gillom said. “In the last two games, there has been a huge difference. The girls are playing with great intensity at both ends of the floor and we are pushing it up and running.’’
The combination of senior-to-be Montana Oltrogge (forward) and junior-to-be Leilani McIntosh (point guard) is showing signs of midseason-type play. Oltrogge sets picks and slips inside and McIntosh gets her the ball, or McIntosh keeps it and drives to the basket.
“They know each other well and know how to play the game,’’ Gillom said.
As much as Gillom wants the Gators to score, an important objective will be to keep opponents from scoring.
“We are putting much more emphasis on defense,’’ Gillom said. “The idea is sinking in and the girls are buying in.’’
The coach’s starting five likely will be Oltrogge, McIntosh, senior forward Katie Hassett, junior guard Paris Moore and either senior Izzy Wirth or junior Addison Putnam on the wing.
The key for Gillom will be finding depth. There are a number of players from last year’s team that finished 20-7, and there are three or four players from last year’s JV who could develop into reliable options.
It is hoped that senior forward guard Alana Kelley, who was sidelined all of last season with an injured knee, will be ready to play when the regular season begins. Kelley, who has committed to play at Brown University, is practicing and working out but not playing in the summer league as a precautionary measure.
*Note – League director Barry Ringel, the head coach at T-Bird, reports that Xavier is one of just three teams to play in every year of the league’s 20-year existence. The others are T-Bird and Phoenix Greenway.