Bio

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 AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Defense takes over for Gators in playoffs

When the offense is sputtering like a car engine on a cold morning, there is still a remedy that can keep a basketball team in the game.

It is called defense.

“What I tell the team is, defense can make up for a lot of things. It helps everything,’’ said Xavier Prep coach Jennifer Gillom.

On Sunday (June 24), it helped Gillom’s Gators defeat Phoenix Sunnyslope 38-23 in a Blue Bracket playoff game for the Thunderbird High Summer Girls Basketball League in north Phoenix.

Xavier (6-3) advanced to Monday’s (June 25) semifinals against Phoenix Pinnacle. Tipoff is 3 p.m. The semifinal winner will move on to the championship game at 8 p.m.

Xavier also remains alive in the JV White Bracket. The Gators defeated Phoenix Greenway 33-23 on Sunday and will play a semifinal game at 10 a.m. on Monday against Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor. If Xavier wins that one, it will play for the bracket championship at 5 p.m.

The Xavier varsity trailed early 6-2 against Sunnyslope before going on a 12-0 run. The Gators’ offense did not operate as smoothly as it did during a win over Glendale Cactus in Saturday’s (June 23) opening round.

The Gators were hit and miss in the second half, but their pressure defense kept the Sunnyslope offense out of the passing lanes and forced the Vikings into higher-percentage shots.

Addison Putnam hit three 3-pointers for Xavier in the game, and Mackenzie Coder added another from long range.

Still, the Gators did not have quite the same offensive spark as when senior point guard Leilani McIntosh runs the show. She was unavailable on Saturday and again Sunday, as was junior forward Elysia Fleetwood.

Gillom has been running more of a basic offense during McIntosh’s absence, as to not have the guards who remain attempt to do too much.

“They’re learning,’’ she said. “We are glad they are able to get some experience.

“Overall, I’d say I am happy with the way we are playing. I don’t look at the shots so much as I look at the intensity, how they play generally and the execution. We are working on it.’’

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