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.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Gators warm up for win, now challenge Mesquite

For the first few minutes of their game against visiting Mesa Desert Ridge on Thursday night (Jan. 11), Xavier Prep’s Gators could have worn hoodie sweatshirts.

They were a bit cold in the shooting department. Very few of their attempts wanted to go in the basket, often clanking off the rim.

It stood to reason that things eventually would heat up, and that reasoning was correct.

The Gators’ radar began to work as it has most of the season to date, and they rolled to a 53-27 victory at the Activity Center.

The win was Xavier’s 14th in a row and raised its overall record to 16-3. Desert Ridge fell to 6-14.

Now comes one of the Gators’ biggest challenges of the season.

On Friday night (Jan. 12), they travel to face Gilbert Mesquite, the defending 5A Conference champion that has won all of its games (15-3) except for a three-game struggle in the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions in Chandler just before Christmas.

Mesquite handed Xavier one of its losses this season, 60-52 in the (Gilbert) Highland Thanksgiving tournament. The Wildcats feature one of the state’s top players in guard Shaylee Gonzales, who has committed to BYU.

The contest figures to be a battle between Gonzales and her backcourt mates against the strong Xavier inside tandem of Montana Oltrogge and Katie Hassett.

Expect Xavier guards Leilani McIntosh and Paris Moore to have their hands full. Oltrogge and Hassett have been putting a lot of points on the board and Hassett in particular also has become a rebounding and defensive force underneath.

Against Desert Ridge, Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom wanted to try to build as big of a lead as possible to allow Oltrogge and others to conserve some of their energy for the Mesquite contest. Oltrogge scored 17 points against the Jaguars in the first half and did not play in the second.

Addison Putnam finished with 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and Hassett scored eight.

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