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, January 6, 2018

Gator basketball enjoys party time

A big effort calls for a big-time birthday bash.

And Xavier Prep’s Gators celebrated accordingly.

Friday night (Jan. 5) was the birthday of 6-foot-2 Katie Hassett, and she and 6-1 Montana Oltrogge, a fellow senior inside player, combined for 54 of the team’s points in an 82-50 victory over host Chandler High in a 6A Conference Premier Region game.

Oltrogge scored 33 points and Hassett added 21 as Xavier raised its overall record to 14-3 and region mark to 3-0. Chandler slipped to 7-7 and 1-1.

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom couldn’t stop smiling afterward.

“This was a really good game for us,’’ she said. “I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Chandler, except that I know they always have good speed.

“We came out with poise and intensity and when we do that at both ends of the floor, we are hard to beat.’’

It was apparent during pre-game warm-ups that Xavier would have a size advantage with Hassett and Oltrogge, “and we had to take advantage of it,’’ Gillom said.

Of Hassett’s birthday, Gillom said, “The team all played for her. That’s what I like about it. We do everything together.’’

Oltrogge scored 24 of her points in the first half as the Gators built a 49-30 lead at intermission. She added nine more, including a 3-pointer, in the second half, and finished with 19 rebounds. Hassett scored 14 of her points in the second half.

Though Chandler was overmatched, you had to give the Wolves credit for hanging in there most of the way. Their shorter players connected on some 3-pointers and fearlessly drove to the basket, often putting the ball in or drawing a foul.

The region schedule continues for the Gators on Tuesday (Jan. 9), when they travel to face Chandler Hamilton at 7 p.m.

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