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.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Xavier basketball team "fought until the end'

The Monsoon from Surprise Valley Vista had been to the basketball state championship game before -- a year ago, to be exact.

And they played like it.

Xavier Prep was playing its first title game in more than 30 years.

It all added up to a second straight 6A Conference crown for Valley Vista with a 68-55 victory over XCP at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena on Wednesday night (Feb. 28).

Both teams finished 25-6.

The numbers speak for themselves. Xavier made just 20 of its 60 field-goal attempts (33 percent), 10 of its 23 free-throw attempts (43.5 percent) and was outrebounded 47-34.

Junior point guard Leilani McIntosh gave it all she had, scoring 20 points before fouling out late in the contest, one of three Gators to do so. Senior forward Montana Oltrogge scored 13 points and led in rebounding with 11.

Star senior guard Taylor Chavez led Valley Vista with 22 points, guard Rysha Banner had 17 in addition to a defensive assignment on McIntosh, and freshman forward Marisa Davis had a huge night with 14 points and 18 rebounds.

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom gave credit where credit was due.

“They (Valley Vista) had poise, they knew what to do and their defensive rotations were very difficult to go against. Their experience of being here before was huge,’’ she said.

Of her own team’s effort, she said, “Nobody expected us to be here, but we made it. All the girls worked very hard. They were here for the first time, but they fought through everything. They fought until the end. I commend them for that.’’

The Gators opened the game as if the nervousness they displayed in a semifinal win over top-seeded Goodyear Millennium had disappeared. Sparked by 3-pointers from junior Addie Putnam and McIntosh, Xavier led 16-13 after the first eight minutes.

McIntosh hit another trey early in the second quarter for a 21-18 lead, but then Valley Vista took over. The Monsoon went on an 11-0 run to take a lead they would not relinquish.

Gillom gave Oltrogge a pep talk in the tunnel before coming out for the second half.

“She’s been our leader all year and she’s done a good job,’’ Gillom said.

A large gathering of blue-clad Xavier fans continued to voice their support, but time began to creep up on the Gators in the second half.

There were about 3,000 Xavier fans, including 700 current students, as well as a number of XCP graduates.

Oltrogge’s outstanding career came to an end with 54.1 seconds left when she fouled out. Gillom hugged her as Oltrogge fought back tears. She will move on to Idaho State next season.

It was an emotional end for the Gators, but they deserve a great deal of credit for what they accomplished. They had the greatest season in school history.

Xavier scoring

Leilani McIntosh 20, Montana Oltrogge 13, Katie Hassett 7, Paris Moore 6, Payton Davis 6, Addie Putnam 3.

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