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.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Gators reach title game; New! Photos added!

Senior point guard Leilani McIntosh is known as a great team player for Xavier Prep’s basketball team.

But she also is more than capable of taking over a game, as she did on Thursday afternoon (Feb. 21) in a 6A Conference semifinal game against Surprise Valley Vista at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena.

It was something the Gators really needed as they earned a trip to the state championship game for the second straight year with a 65-51 victory, dethroning the two-time defending champs and gaining bit of revenge for a loss in last year’s title contest.

Xavier, the second seed, raised its overall record to 26-4, while sixth-seeded Valley Vista finished with a 25-5 mark.


Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom instructs her players during a timeout (Photos by Sr. Lynn Winsor).

Let the celebration begin! Excited players and coaches are going back to the 6A state championship game.

Xavier spirit line performs during a break in the action.
Xavier will meet top-seeded Chandler Hamilton (25-5), its Premier Region rival, at Wells Fargo on Tuesday night (Feb. 26), with a 6 p.m. tipoff. The teams split their two game regular-season series. Hamilton defeated fourth-seeded Phoenix Pinnacle 50-43 in the other semi later Thursday night.

McIntosh led all scorers with 29 points against Valley Vista, including 20 in the second half and 11 of those in the fourth quarter to help keep the Monsoon at arm’s length. She also had a pair of 3-point baskets.

Earlier in the day, she had been selected as the Girls High School Athlete of the Week by the azcentral.com media outlet for her efforts in the first round against Phoenix Desert Vista and the quarterfinal round against Chandler High.

She drove around and through Valley Vista’s defense, and had a big assist with slightly less than four minutes left in the game when she found guard Addie Putnam when Putnam cut from the corner along the baseline toward the basket.

McIntosh was a perfect 7-for-7 at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and nine of 10 overall, which in itself was a significant part of the story line.

Valley Vista was whistled for 26 fouls, Xavier just 15. Valley Vista had two players foul out, including sophomore star Marisa Davis, who was never really a factor with just five points and two rebounds. The Monsoon had three other players with four fouls.

Gators coach Jennifer Gillom said she knew Valley Vista would have a size advantage, so her team would have to counteract that with its speed.

“We had to attack them, try to make them try to stay with us, and get them to foul,’’ she said.

Putnam also was on target from the line, converting eight of 11 and finishing with 17 points.

Xavier was outrebounded 40-22, but got the caroms when needed. Senior guard Paris Rasheed-Moore had six, Putnam five.

Other key contributors were senior guard Truly Helton and sophomore guard Kailey Appel.

Helton, known more for her defense, scored seven points, including a 3-pointer to help get the Gators on track in the early going. Appel, a transfer from Mesa Red Mountain, hit two free throws and played good defense.

Gillom said that Appel, who missed much of the season with a wrist injury, has good court sense and has seen her playing time increase.

“She has a high basketball IQ. She knows where to be,’’ Gillom said.

McIntosh said the Gators “knew we would have to stop Marisa and Jenna (Isai, freshman), try to get them in foul trouble. They had the size on us, but most teams we’ve played this year have had more size.’’

Isai had a good all-around game with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

McIntosh lives in the west Valley and knows some of the Valley Vista players from club ball.

“I knew a lot of their tendencies,’’ she said.

Defeating the defending champs removed a big obstacle, Gillom said.

“They (Gators) remember last year and they wanted to beat this team so bad,’’ she said. “We left it all on the court.’’

Said McIntosh: “It was amazing. It was basically the reverse of last year.’’



6A semifinal

Xavier Prep 65, Valley Vista 51

Valley Vista 10 17 14 10 – 51

Xavier Prep 13 11 18 23 – 65

Xavier scoring (FG/FT/TP) – Elysia Fleetwood 3-3-9, Truly Helton 3-0-7, Addie Putnam 4-8-17, Leilani McIntosh 9-9-29, Paris Rasheed-Moore 0-1-1, Mackenzie Coder 0-0-0, Kailey Appel 0-2-2.
Leaders
Three-point field goals – McIntosh 2, Helton 1, Putnam 1.

Rebounds – Rasheed-Moore 6, Putnam 5.

Assists – Rasheed-Moore 4.

Steals – McIntosh 5, Rasheed-Moore 5, Putnam 4.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Xavier, Valley Vista in hoops semifinal duel

Xavier Prep’s basketball team will get a chance to reach the 6A Conference state championship game for the second straight year when it meets Surprise Valley Vista in a semifinal game on Thursday (Feb. 21) at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena. Tipoff is 3 p.m.

Both teams have 25-4 overall records. They met for the title last season with Valley Vista winning its second in a row 68-55.

Chandler Hamilton will meet Phoenix Pinnacle in the other semi at 6 p.m.

Xavier is led by its three senior guards and tri-captains, Leilani McIntosh, Addie Putnam and Paris Rasheed-Moore.

Valley Vista is led by sophomore Marisa Davis and freshman Jennah Isai.

Transportation/parking/entrance

Xavier will have a dismissal at 2:05 to allow as many students and faculty/staff as possible to attend the game.

Students, faculty and staff are invited to ride the free rooter buses. They will leave Xavier at 2:15 p.m.

Signup for the buses will be at the athletic office. A signed permission slip is necessary for students to go on the bus. Xavier fans are urged to wear blue. The buses will return to XCP afterward.

Entry fee is $10 for adults and $5 for students with ID. Entry opens at 2 p.m. at the East Gate for spectators and the North Gate for those with Arizona Interscholastic Association passes.

For those going to the game in their own vehicles, be aware that ASU classes are still in session and parking will be closed on surface lots. Fans can park in the Packard Structure at Packard and 6th, or in the Stadium Structure, directly across from Sun Devil Stadium on Veterans Way.

Parking fee is $10.


Xavier Prep 2018-19 varsity basketball roster

Head coach – Jennifer Gillom. Assistant coaches – Patrick Mangosing, Rikki Mulloy.

Players – Bianca Nava, Sr., G; Elysia Fleetwood, Jr., G-F; Cara Coffman, Sr., F; Mackenzie Coder, So., PG; Ellie Higgins, Fr., F-C; Addison Putnam, Sr. G; Tanya Barakat, Jr., C; Rachel Orr, So., F; Sophie Sash, So., G; Victoria Saucedo, So., G; Kailey Appel, So., G; Leilani McIntosh, Sr., PG; Paris Rasheed-Moore, Sr., G; Truly Helton, Sr., G-F; Toni Garcia, Fr., F-C.

Scrimmage gives softball reason for optimism

Maybe, just maybe, if Xavier Prep’s softball team has enough good fortune to reach the 6A Conference state tournament this spring, the Gators can reflect back on when it all started, to an afternoon when the sun played hide and seek with the clouds and the wind chilled players and fans to the bone.

The Gators, who have a new head coach in Brad Downes, a new assistant in Deryk Sexton and only a few returnees from last season, started fresh on Tuesday (Feb. 19) at Phoenix Arcadia with a scrimmage against the 4A Titans.

An official score was not kept, but if you’re still counting, anyway, Xavier came out on top, 8-3.

It was a far cry from last season, when the team finished 4-16-2.

Downes, an assistant coach last season, was pleased by what he saw and the potential that exists for the Gators as they open the season on Thursday (Feb. 21) in the Sunrise Mountain Invitational at Peoria’s Pioneer Park.

Weather permitting, Xavier will face Glendale Mountain Ridge at noon and host Sunrise Mountain at 2 p.m. Games are on time limits. The Gators are due to meet Goodyear Millennium on Friday (Feb. 22) at 2 p.m.

“Yes, we are very optimistic,’’ Downes said. “We were aggressive with our hitting and running the bases and our pitching and defense were good. We have a few things to work on, but that’s OK.’’

Xavier wasted little time in establishing itself. Freshman outfielder/shortstop Megan Schouten led off the scrimmage in her first at-bat as a Gator and slugged a home run into the teeth of the wind in right-center field.

Schouten wasn’t the only freshman to excel. Infielder-catcher Bridget Donahey hit a two-run homer in her first at-bat to left to drive in her older sister, Katie, a junior center fielder-shortstop, who had walked. Bridget Donahey drove in two more runs, on a double and a sacrifice fly.

Marisa Sgambati, one of two primary pitchers for the Gators (freshman Riley Flynn is the other), escaped trouble in the bottom of the first with the help of a double play. Bridget Donahey speared a line drive at shortstop and threw to first to catch a runner off the bag.

Sgambati, a senior who did not play for the Gators last season, pitched 3 1/3 innings, giving up no runs on one hit and striking out four.

Flynn entered the game in the fourth and gave up a two-run homer to Jordyn Pender, but was otherwise solid. Pender also drove in the third Arcadia run with a wind-blown single in the seventh.

Flynn had a good sense of when to put zip on the ball and when to let up and let the slower movement of the pitch catch the batter off-guard. She surrendered just two hits and struck out seven.

All 13 available players batted for the Gators.

With most players versatile enough to play more than one position, Downes should have plenty of flexibility during the season.

“I’m excited for the players and I think they are excited to get started,’’ Downes said. “We have a good group.’’

He tries not to mention what happened last year. He wants the players to concentrate on what’s ahead.

“Our theme is “Better,’ ’’ he said. “We have team and individual goals, but it’s all about the process. If we do the process right, we will win more games.’’


2018-19 Xavier Prep softball roster

Head coach – Brad Downes. Assistant coach – Deryk Sexton.

Jazmin Andrade, So., 3B-SS; Cara Coffman, Sr., INF; Bridget Donahey, Fr., SS-C-3B; Katie Donahey, Jr., CF-SS; Riley Flynn, Fr., RF-P; Sydney Johnson, So., LF; Macy Lee, So., C-INF; Cameron Martin, Jr., RF-2B; Amaris Mori, Jr., C-3B; Kylie Rodgers, Sr., P; Analisa Roman, Sr., 1B; Ashlee Sanchez, Sr., RF-2B; Megan Schouten, Fr., OF-SS; Marisa Sgambati, Sr., P-1B; Elliot Smith, Fr., 1B-C-OF.

Lacrosse scores big in season opener

Xavier Prep’s club lacrosse team took a successful first step in the 2018-19 season on Tuesday night (Feb. 19), rolling past host Scottsdale Desert Mountain 17-4.

Sarah Minton scored five goals and had three assists, while Nina Mackey had four goals and two assists.

Goalkeeper Claudia Garcia also had a strong game with eight saves. She also helped the defense and got the offense going by sending out numerous clearing shots.

The Gators had a spirited effort and showed a great deal of teamwork.

Now it’s on to the next opponent, the second of four road matches to start the season, against Cave Creek Cactus Shadows. The contest will begin at 7 p.m.at Horseshoe Trails Elementary School in north Phoenix, 5405 E. Pinnacle Vista Dr.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Gator beach volleyball has plenty of depth

During a recent preseason workout for his Xavier Prep beach volleyball team, Gators coach Tim McHale looked through the fence at Cavanaugh Courts and saw something floating in the Grand Canal.

“Uh, oh, we’ve got a swimmer!’’ McHale said.

It was a volleyball, seemingly trying to make an escape.

McHale, accompanied by his young son, took a long pole similar to the ones used for cleaning pools, slipped through a gate, climbed up the canal bank and attempted to guide the ball back to land.

For the Gators, there’s no escaping the fact that despite falling to Gilbert Perry in the state quarterfinals last year, signaling the first time in seven seasons that they did not win the state title, that they remain a major force on the beach.

Xavier, which opens the season on Friday (Feb. 22) with a home match against Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep, has close to 20 players on its roster. That depth should give McHale some flexibility when some of his players are involved with indoor and beach club tournaments, not unusual. McHale said that unlike some sports, the club and high school teams have a good working relationship.

Among the Gators’ top players are seniors Trinity Cavanaugh and Lydia Rush, junior Abby Converse and sophomore Serena Turner.

And McHale recently received some encouraging news when senior Shannon Shields told him that she would be coming out to play.

McHale said Shields, who as a setter helped Xavier’s indoor team win its second straight 6A Conference state title and was selected the Gatorade Player of the Year for Arizona, originally was not going to return but turned around and changed her mind.

“She said, “Ah, I’m coming out after all,’ ’’ he said. “She said, “I am going to be busy (also with club and preparing to go to the University of Louisville in the fall -- indoor), but I’m going to make it work.’ I guess she just couldn’t resist.’’

Even without Shields, the Gators have a lot of talent coming back.

Not that you want your team to lose a match, particularly in the state tournament, but McHale indicated that it could be a good thing for the Gators and help them in the long run.

“I think it was a valuable learning experience,’’ he said.

“Some of the girls didn’t get to see us not succeed,’’ said McHale, whose team lost just one game in its first six seasons and three last season for a 68-4 overall mark. “It was hard for some of them to play with a sense of urgency. Sometimes you think you are automatically going to win. Now they’re going to have to give everything they have, not have it be just a given.’’

In addition to Shields, Xavier has others ticketed to play in college – Cavanaugh in beach at TCU and Conrad and Turner down the road in beach at Stanford.

“We have a bunch of athletic kids who are hungry,’’ McHale said.

The coach gives a number to certain courts, the top one and so on down, and the players “scrimmage’’ to try to reach the top court. That helps motivate them.

Agility drills also a part of the workouts.

“We like to keep the kids moving,’’ said McHale, who is joined by assistant Kristen Jones.



Xavier Prep 2018-19 beach volleyball roster

Katie Anthony, Fr.; Tori Burton, Jr.; Brianna Butkiewicz, Jr.; Analy Carbine, Jr.; Trinity Cavanaugh, Sr.; Abby Converse, Jr.; Eliza Dominguez, Jr.; AG Gordon, Fr.; Tessa Guthrie, So.; Ania Hiler, So.; Grace Lincoln, Jr.; Zaira Reyes, So.; Lydia Rush, Sr.; Shea Sciarappo, Sr.; Shannon Shields, Sr.; Alexa Shiner, Fr.; Kate Tellez, Jr.; Tiffany Tellez, Fr.; Serena Turner, So.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

XCP holds off Chander, advances to hoops semis

Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom stood in front of her team’s bench and called over her three senior captains, Paris Rasheed-Moore, Leilani McIntosh and Addie Putnam.

They embraced as Gillom imparted a special message to them after the Gators held on to defeat visiting Chandler High 57-52 on Friday night (Feb. 15) in a 6A Conference quarterfinal game between the Premier Region rivals.

“This was our last home game and I told them I was going to miss them,’’ Gillom said. “I started out as their PE teacher when they were freshmen and I want to see them get a state championship.’’

Thanks to five free throws that dropped through the net in the final minute and a half, second-seeded Xavier was able to turn back a furious rally by 10th-seeded Chandler and advanced to the semifinals on Thursday (Feb. 21) against two-time defending state champion Surprise Valley Vista, the No. 6 seed. Tipoff is 3 p.m. at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena.

The other semifinal, at 6 p.m., will feature top-seeded Chandler Hamilton and No. 4 Phoenix Pinnacle.

Xavier and Valley Vista both are 25-4. Xavier came tantalizingly close to capturing its first state title last season, but Valley Vista defeated the Gators 68-55.

Against Chandler, Xavier led by 16 points with 1:18 left in the third quarter and 13 at the break going into the fourth.

Whether the Gators were too relaxed or what, the Wolves stormed back and finally tied it at 52-52 with 1:33 left in the game on a 3-pointer by guard Victoria Mason.

It was the last points the Wolves would score as Xavier would get three free throws from Putnam and two from McIntosh to put the game away and give the Gators their third win over the Wolves (15-15) this season.

“Beating a team three times in one season is not easy,’’ Gillom said. “We knew Chandler was going to give us a run for our money.’’

She said she was pleased with the win, “but I am not pleased by the way we played. That is not us.’’

You can be sure that she will be reminding her team in the coming days that it will need to stay focused and step up its play.

Putnam leads the team with a 16.0 scoring average. Her 3-point shooting is integral to the offense as it was against Chandler with four of the long-range shots (17 points). She has close to 60 treys for the season.

McIntosh is averaging 14 points, 3.9 assists and 4.3 steals and is beginning to assert herself even more as her level of play rises. She scored 25 against Chandler and 21 in a first-round win over Phoenix Desert Vista.

Rasheed-Moore will get her points (average of 10.5), but she is the most valuable on defense (5.4 steals) and on the boards (team-leading 5.4).

Valley Vista lost four seniors from last year’s team but would seem to have enough experience remaining. The Monsoon appeared to be backcourt-oriented last season but this season are looking to two talented young inside players – 6-foot-1 sophomore Marisa Davis (16.1 points, 6.8 rebounds) and 5-10 freshman Jennah Isai (18.2 points).



6A Conference basketball quarterfinals

Friday’s results

(Seeding in parentheses)

Chandler Hamilton (1) 52, Phoenix Mountain Pointe (8) 50; Phoenix Pinnacle (4) 61, Gilbert Highland (5) 58; Surprise Valley Vista (6) 80, Gilbert Perry (3) 63; Xavier Prep (2) 57, Chandler High (10) 52.

6A Conference semifinals

Thursday, Feb. 21 at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena

Xavier Prep vs. Surprise Valley Vista, 3 p.m.; Chandler Hamilton vs. Phoenix Pinnacle, 6 p.m.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Basketball: "This is what we've got to do'

In the basketball playoffs, there’s not much time for waiting around to see what develops and then reacting. You have to make things happen, be aggressive, or you won’t hang around very long.

Xavier Prep followed that blueprint on Wednesday night (Feb. 13), being aggressive from the get-go and rolling to a 61-29 first-round victory over visiting Phoenix Desert Vista at the Activity Center.

The Gators (24-4), the 6A Conference’s second-seeded team, advance to Friday night’s (Feb. 15) quarterfinals at home against No. 10 Chandler High (15-14), one of Xavier’s rivals in the Premier Region. Xavier defeated Chandler twice during the regular season.

A win over Chandler would send the Gators to the semifinals at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena at 3 p.m. on Feb. 21.

Xavier outscored No. 15 Desert Vista 20-6 in the first quarter and never looked back. Xavier defeated the Thunder once in the regular season and once in a holiday tournament at Phoenix Arcadia.

The Gators did not employ their trademark press, perhaps a bit of a surprise to the Thunder, but were very aggressive as the ball crossed the halfcourt line. They stole the ball on numerous occasions, many of those by senior guard Paris Rasheed-Moore when she stepped in front of passes.

“I think that gave us more energy,’’ said Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom.

Energy to focus more on the offense and put the ball in the basket from seemingly all areas of the floor. That included 3-point attempts. Xavier made six, half of those by senior point guard Leilani McIntosh, who finished with a team-high 21 points. Junior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood was next with 16.

“We were more proactive, not reactive, tonight,’’ Gillom said. “If we play every night like we did tonight, that can make a huge difference. This is what we’ve got to do when we try to get the win on Friday.’’

McIntosh scored 10 of her points in the second quarter as Xavier outscored the Thunder 19-3. She had a streak of sorts by hitting a pair of treys to close out the first half and another trey for the Gators’ first points of the second half.

Xavier scored just five points in the fourth, including a 3-pointer by sophomore Kailey Appel, under a running clock because the lead was larger than 30 points.


6A Conference basketball first round

Wednesday’ s results

(Seeding in parentheses)

Chandler Hamilton (1) 72, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (16) 42; Phoenix Mountain Pointe (8) 63, Mesa Red Mountain (9) 42; Gilbert Highland (5) 48, Tucson High (12) 38; Phoenix Pinnacle (4) 67, Anthem Boulder Creek (13) 42; Gilbert Perry (3) 63, Mesa Westwood (14) 29; Surprise Valley Vista (6) 94, Yuma Cibola (11) 26; Chandler High (10) 60, Scottsdale Chaparral (7) 45; Xavier Prep (2) 61, Phoenix Desert Vista (15) 29.

6A Conference quarterfinals

All games on Friday at 7 p.m.

Phoenix Mountain Pointe at Chandler Hamilton, Gilbert Highland at Phoenix Pinnacle, Surprise Valley Vista at Gilbert Perry, Chandler High at Xavier Prep.

Sims, distance, relays lead Xavier track

Long-time Xavier Prep track and field coach Dave Van Sickle says that Arizona continues to develop into one of the best states for that sport.

Count Van Sickle’s Gators among those programs raising their level of competitiveness.

Xavier currently involved with its daily preseason workout regimen as it moves toward its first meet of the season, on Feb. 27 against Gilbert Perry at the Brophy Sports Campus.

The Gators finished eighth at last year’s Division I state meet, and Van Sickle figures the team is capable of moving into the top five when the event returns to Mesa Community College in early May.

As usual, one of the team’s strongest areas is its distance runners, who helped the Van Sickle-coached cross-country team win the Division I state title last fall, its first since 2012.

Among the leaders are junior Mia Olsen and sophomore Jamie Stelnik, who finished fifth and seventh, respectively among individual cross-country runners at state.

The Gators also have sophomore Sammy Braun, seniors Karina Hawkins, Helen Innes, Karina Smith and Jose Venezia.

The focus of Xavier’s middle distance likely will be on senior Johnnie Mitchell and junior Sophie Brohard.

Xavier also is bolstered by its relay teams. XCP finished third in the 4x800 and fourth in the 4x400.

Van Sickle would like to see a few of his sprinters make an impact in events that are dominated by perennial contenders Chandler High, Chandler Hamilton and Phoenix Desert Vista. Chandler has won three state titles and seven of the last eight.

As far as top individual athletes are concerned, Van Sickle has the luxury of coaching one of the top all-around girls in the state, senior Jada Sims. The coach says she is capable of winning three or four individual events. She figures to have a chance to win the high jump (second last year) and could challenge in the 100-meter hurdles (eighth) and long jump (17th). Sims also flourished in a couple of heptathlons once the track season was completed last season.

“She is stronger, more mature and has more of a sense of purpose,’’ said Van Sickle of Sims, who will compete collegiately at Vanderbilt.

Xavier has three athletes who have been participating in winter sports, and the coach hopes he will be able to rely on them for assistance. They have a lot of speed, he said.

The javelin is a recent addition to the state meet, and junior Kendall Swanson is a candidate to rise on the final finish list.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

XCP tennis players in right frame of mind

The game of tennis has sounds all its own. It’s the whack of the racket against the ball and the emphatic groan of players serving and attempting to return a difficult shot. And on occasion, you might hear them talking to themselves.

So get ready to listen to and watch Xavier Prep players as the 2019 season is just about to begin.

Coach Laurie Martin’s Gators begin their season on Feb. 21 at Mesa Mountain View, and the team’s first home match will be Feb. 26 against Gilbert Highland.

She will have a good group of experienced players as the team attempts to win its first state championship since 2015.

There are seniors Tristanne Dechoux, Emily Good and Kate Stegman, juniors Emily Even, Lorelei Glidden, Jessica Mirmelli and Erica Stutz, and a promising newcomer in freshman Ryan Kershner.

Martin started working with the players on Feb. 4. She is looking forward to seeing how their skill sets have improved, as well as their overall maturity. Singles players pretty much go on their own, while in doubles, Martin and her assistants will be assessing which players work best with one another.

Dechoux and Stegman are considering studying psychology when they move on to college at the University of New Orleans and the University of Arizona, respectively.

Getting inside an opponent’s head and yes, sometimes your own, can be beneficial on the court.

“You can sometimes read their (opponent’s) body language and that can tell a lot about a person,’’ Dechoux said. “And you have to avoid the same thing with your own game if you can, stay cool. If it’s a close match, a pressure situation, I always try to take my time between points.’’

Dechoux plays with a great deal of power and has learned to put touch on the ball. Another year’s experience should benefit her and her teammates.

“We’re all very excited,’’ she said. “We’re hoping to do better at state, and the fact we have more experience should help us with not being as nervous.’’

At times last season, she said she was troubled by a few nagging injuries, but said she is healthy and ready to go.

Stegman, meanwhile, looks forward to filling more of a leadership role.

“When I was younger, I looked up to the seniors and now I want our younger players to feel comfortable doing the same thing,’’ she said.

She said she is “kind of relieved that I am a senior, and I don’t have to worry about much of anything, just go out and play.’’

As far as the psychology aspect is concerned, Stegman does admit that she can pick up on when certain shots, both hers and their own, are frustrating them.

“For me, the thing I try not to do is get angry,’’ she said. “Always play as evenly (not showing much emotion) as possible.’’

One thing she thinks will help her play better is an improved serve.

“I’ve worked hard on that,’’ she said. “If your serve is stronger, it could help you score points more quickly.’’

Even and Stutz also are strong players, especially in doubles. Expect them to develop into title contenders.

In team play, Martin said Scottsdale Desert Mountain is aiming for a third straight state title. Xavier, Scottsdale Chaparral, Phoenix Horizon and Chandler Hamilton also should be in the running.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Xavier's girls have more spirit than anyone!

The Xavier Prep spirit line, coached by Monica Gaspar, is all smiles after winning the Arizona Interscholastic Association's Division I All-Girl Cheer state championship on Saturday (Feb. 9) at Estrella Foothills High in Goodyear. Way to go, Gators!! (Xavier photo).


Gator soccer fights to finish but Highland survives

With a 2-0 deficit against host Gilbert Highland early in Saturday’s (Feb. 9) first round of the 6A Conference state soccer tournament, Xavier Prep could have just rolled over and withered away.

But the 11th-seeded Gators showed resilience and fought to the end against the sixth-seeded Hawks, coming back for a 2-2 tie before Highland scored with 17:49 left in the match and held on for a 3-2 victory.

Xavier, which finished with a 9-7-1 record, was the two-time defending state champion. Highland (14-61) advances to the quarterfinals on Wednesday (Feb. 13) with a road contest against No. 3 seed Phoenix Desert Vista, which defeated No. 14 Anthem Boulder Creek 6-1 on Saturday.

Of her team’s effort against Highland, Xavier coach Barb Chura said, “I thought the team played really well and they fought hard. We had a lot of young players and we came a long way from where we started the season.

“Most of our younger players should be coming back next year and should be a year older, stronger  and better, and they will know what to expect.’’

Highland, which defeated Xavier 1-0 in a match at Xavier on Dec. 11, nearly scored in this one with just over a minute in. The Hawks did come back and take a 1-0 lead about five minutes later.

The Hawks made it 2-0 at 26:51, scoring on a breakaway.

Junior Elizabeth Warren got the Gators on the board with 23:44 left in the half with a strong shot.

After the halftime break gave them a chance to talk things over and regroup, the Gators made it a new game when sophomore Kendall Warner tallied on a long shot that got past the Highland goalkeeper.

Xavier somehow managed to escape a Highland goal moments later in a scramble in front of the net as two Gator defenders got the ball out of trouble.

Highland prevented Xavier from taking the lead with 21:50 left when a long free kick was stopped by the goalkeeper.

At 17:49, Highland produced the game-winner. A Hawks player retrieved the ball near the right corner and dribbled the ball toward the goal along the back line as the Xavier defenders tried to get into position. The Highland player passed the ball across to the left side of the goal, where Secret McEuen was waiting and she sent a high shot just under the crossbar and into the back of the net.

The Gators tried to get the ball back down the field for a few more attempts, but time began to slip away and Highland took a deep breath before celebrating. The Hawks knew that Xavier had pushed them to the limit.

XCP hoops seeded 2nd, faces tough road

If Xavier Prep is to win its first state basketball championship, the Gators will have to do it the hard way.

The 6A Conference seedings and pairings were announced by the Arizona Interscholastic Association on Saturday (Feb. 9) and Xavier got the No. 2 seed behind top-seeded Chandler Hamilton.

That means the Gators will be in the bottom half of the bracket, which without question is stronger than the top half.

The bottom bracket is where third-seeded Gilbert Perry, sixth-seeded two-time defending state champion Surprise Valley Vista, and seventh-seeded Scottsdale Chaparral reside.

And there is one lower seed that lurks in the bottom-bracket pond, and that would be No. 15 Phoenix Desert Vista, which is Xavier’s opponent in the opening round on Wednesday (Feb. 13) at Xavier (7 p.m. tipoff).

Xavier defeated Desert Vista 61-49 at Desert Vista on Dec. 7, but the Thunder figure to give the Gators all they can handle.

The Gators also defeated Chaparral on Dec. 14 in Scottsdale.

Chaparral will meet No. 10 seed Chandler High in the first round, and the winner of that game would meet Xavier in the second round if Xavier defeats Desert Vista.

Xavier split two games with Perry in 6A Premier Region play. Perry will open against Valley Vista, which defeated Xavier for last year’s title. One of those two is a potential opponent for Xavier in the semifinals should the Gators advance that far.

As they have all season, the Gators will be led by their three senior guards – Leilani McIntosh, Addie Putnam and Paris Rasheed-Moore.

McIntosh keeps the offense running as smoothly as possible from the point. Putnam is the long-range shooting specialist. And Rasheed-Moore might be playing the best of all at the moment at both ends of the floor.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Soccer wins "play-in,'' advances to state

It’s always good to win, especially in the playoffs.

And with a young team, Xavier Prep soccer coach Barb Chura was happy for the Gators’ 3-0 victory over visiting Mesa Westwood in a 6A Conference “play-in’’ game on Thursday night at Petznick Field (Feb. 7).

Xavier (9-6-1) advances to the state tournament that begins on Saturday (Feb. 9) at 2 p.m. The Gators will play at No. 6 seeded Gilbert Highland (13-6-1). The two met at XCP on Dec. 11, and Highland came away with a 1-0 victory.

 “With so many young players, it is great that they are able to taste this, feel what it’s like,’’ Chura said.

“This is something to build on. I am happy for them.’’

Chura said the program has reached the state tournament in every year of her tenure, and that streak will continue even though the team went a different route to get there.

And now that the Gators are there, they’re in the “anything can happen’’ mode. They are the two-time defending state champion.

“The seeds don’t always matter. We’ve learned that before,’’ she said.

Xavier was in the 11th spot in the final regular-season power-points listing by the AIA, and Westwood was No. 22. Teams 9-24 in the rankings had play-in games and the top eight teams qualified automatically.

The Gators stepped up their game, playing solid defense and peppering the Warriors with numerous scoring opportunities. To its credit, Westwood continued to play aggressively, even when the outcome appeared inevitable.

Xavier scored all of its goals in the first half.

Freshman Keila Lopez Enriquez, one of the pleasant surprises of this season or perhaps any season, scored the first goal with a little less than 10 minutes gone in the contest on an assist from sophomore Kendall Warner.

With 3:16 left in the half, the Gators put their second goal on the board by junior Elizabeth Warren. Junior Kaitlyn Lauck provided the assist.

And for their third goal, the Gators proved that every second on the clock is valuable when freshman Ansley Burns put the ball in the net with only :01 showing. Senior Kelli Rasmussen got credit for the assist.

6A Conference “play-in’’ results

(Seedings in parentheses)

Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (9) 3, Glendale Mountain Ridge (24) 1; Chandler High (17) 3, Tucson High (16) 1; Peoria Liberty (15) 3, Yuma Cibola (18) 0; Mesa Desert Ridge (12) 2, Tempe Corona del Sol (21) 0; Xavier Prep (11) 3, Mesa Westwood (22) 0; Surprise Shadow Ridge (13) 4, Queen Creek (20) 1; Anthem Boulder Creek (14) 3, Phoenix Mountain Pointe (19) 1; Phoenix Pinnacle (10) 1, Avondale La Joya (23) 0.

6A Conference first round of state tournament
Saturday, Feb. 9

(Seedings in parentheses)

Chandler High (16) at Scottsdale Chaparral (1), Phoenix Sandra Day O'Connor (9) at Chandler Basha (8), Mesa Desert Ridge (12) at Mesa Mountain View (5), Surprise Shadow Ridge (13) at Chandler Hamilton (4), Anthem Boulder Creek (14) at Phoenix Desert Vista (3), Xavier Prep (11) at Gilbert Highland (6), Phoenix Pinnacle (10) at Mesa Red Mountain (7), Peoria Liberty (15) at Gilbert Perry (2).

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

At Xavier, it's always "Women in Sports Day'

The National Women’s Sports Foundation has made today (Feb. 6) the 33rd annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

The slogan is, “Lead Her Forward.’’

What better place to see how much this means is right here at Xavier College Prep, where not only sports, but academics, is a daily thread woven throughout the campus and community.

That is why Xavier’s mission is Women of Faith Pursuing Excellence.

The school has had numerous sports stars over the years and more this year, and will have even more as time goes on.

All the girls in all the sports put every ounce of energy they can in pursuing victory with honor.

You can see it in the games, maybe even more so in practices. You can see it on their faces, the smiles and tears of joy when they win and hugs and emotional support for each other when things don’t go as well.

I am constantly amazed by how much these young ladies mean to each other.

The coaches also are a big part of the equation. Their leadership and encouragement is an example for their athletes to follow.

If you haven’t done so lately, tell your athletes and all the students how much you appreciate them. Brighten someone’s day.

Go Gators!!

Xavier soccer "plays in,'' hopes to win

Play in. And if you win, you play on.

In theory, it is simple. But for Xavier Prep’s soccer team, the task is more formidable.

The two-time defending 6A state champion will need to win a “play-in’’ game on Thursday night (Feb. 7) in order to reach the state tournament.

At least the Gators (8-6-1) will play at their Petznick Field home. Ranked No. 11 in power points by the Arizona Interscholastic Association, they will meet No. 23 Mesa Westwood (9-7) at 6 p.m.

The AIA’s top eight teams automatically qualify for the state tournament. The event begins Saturday (Feb. 9) and if it defeats Westwood, Xavier would almost certainly have to play on the road.

Xavier has lost three in a row, four of six (all by shutout) and scored just one goal each in its two most recent wins, Jan. 11 against Tempe Corona del Sol and Jan. 15 against Phoenix Pinnacle.

Automatic 6A Conference qualifiers

Teams listed alphabetically by school.

Chandler Basha, Scottsdale Chaparral, Phoenix Desert Vista, Chandler Hamilton, Gilbert Highland, Mesa Mountain View, Gilbert Perry, Mesa Red Mountain.

Play-in games

Thursday, Feb. 7 at sites of higher seeds. Seeding in parentheses.

Glendale Mountain Ridge (24) at Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (9), Chandler High (17) at Tucson High (16), Yuma Cibola (18) at Peoria Liberty (15), Tempe Corona del Sol (21) at Mesa Desert Ridge (12), Mesa Westwood (22) at Phoenix Xavier Prep (11), Queen Creek (20) at Surprise Shadow Ridge (13), Phoenix Mountain Pointe (19) at Anthem Boulder Creek (14), Avondale La Joya (23) at Phoenix Pinnacle (10).

Gators fall in finale, await state seeding

You just knew it was going to go down right until the end.

What else would you expect from the state’s top two 6A Conference girls basketball teams that also were fighting for their region championship?

Xavier Prep’s Gators and the Huskies from Chandler Hamilton took it to the limit on Tuesday night (Feb. 5) in the regular-season finale at the Activity Center. It wasn’t officially decided until a desperation 3-point shot at the buzzer by the Gators’ Paris Rasheed-Moore fell short of the mark and allowed Hamilton to hold on for a 38-36 victory.

So now we can sort out the post-season – a little bit, at least.

Xavier, the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s No. 1 power points team going into this one, likely will wind up No. 2 after splitting two games with Premier Region rivals Hamilton and Gilbert Perry with a 23-4 overall record and 6-2 region mark. Hamilton (22-5, 7-1), which was No. 2 going in, is expected to switch places with the Gators and get the top seed when the AIA’s last rankings are announced on Saturday (Feb. 9).

The state tournament begins Feb. 13, with the top eight teams earning automatic berths and playing their openers at home. The rest of the field won’t be known until late on Thursday night (Feb. 7), when teams ranked 9-24 meet in “play-in’’ games.

Xavier had an 18-17 lead with halftime fast approaching, but a quick run allowed Hamilton to take a 22-18 lead at the break on a free throw by Amyah Reaves and two baskets by Raelin Denning.

It stayed close throughout the third quarter, and a drive to the bucket with four seconds left by Rasheed-Moore cut the Hamilton lead to 30-28. Rasheed-Moore would finish the game with 18 points, half of her team’s total.

Hamilton, which played solid defense the whole night, started to gain the upper hand with patient passing and rebounding at both ends. The Huskies often caught XCP flat-footed underneath.

Hamilton held a 35-28 lead with 3:37 left. Rasheed-Moore scored two straight baskets to cut it to three, but Hamilton point guard Victoria Davis made it 37-32 with a shot that seemingly was glued to the rim before falling in.

The Gators cut it to 37-36 on a free throw by point guard Leilani McIntosh and a huge 3-point basket by guard Addie Putnam with 1:15 left.

After two timeouts by Hamilton at :40 and :22, the Gators were forced to foul and Reaves scored the Huskies’ final point at :06 to make it 38-36.

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom quickly called timeout with :05 showing, but the odds were not with the Gators because they had to put the ball in play under the Hamilton basket and needed to go the length of the floor. Rasheed-Moore launched the final shot just after crossing the midcourt line.


Automatic 6A Conference qualifiers

Teams listed alphabetically by school. Order and state seeding announced Saturday, Feb. 9).

Scottsdale Chaparral, Chandler Hamilton, Gilbert Highland, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, Gilbert Perry, Phoenix Pinnacle, Surprise Valley Vista, Phoenix Xavier Prep.

Play-in games

Thursday, Feb. 7 at sites of higher seeds. Seeding in parentheses.

Chandler Basha (24) at Mesa Red Mountain (9), Mesa Desert Ridge (17) at Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (16), Glendale Mountain Ridge (18) at Phoenix Desert Vista (15), Mesa Skyline (21) at Tucson High (12), Glendale Copper Canyon (22) at Yuma Cibola (11), Queen Creek (20) at Anthem Boulder Creek (13), Mesa Mountain View (19) at Mesa Westwood (14), Mesa Dobson (23) at Chandler High (10).

Saturday, February 2, 2019

XCP coach expects more from her basketball team

It was a scenario that has played over and over again for Xavier Prep’s basketball team.

The Gators have done enough to produce the top power-points ranking by the Arizona Interscholastic Association, yet at other times, they show little resemblance to that team.

The team’s performance can sometimes leave coach Jennifer Gillom scratching her head.

Take Friday night’s (Feb. 1) contest against visiting Chandler High, for example.

The Gators came out of the gate in the first quarter, looking much like the group that their fans have come to know and love with a 20-6 lead.

Their grip loosened a bit in the second quarter, and in the third, they had all they could do to hang on. Chandler pulled to within two points about midway through the quarter, and the Wolves kept the pressure on in the fourth.

But Xavier managed to retain its advantage and went on for a 49-41 victory. It left Gillom scratching her head again.

“It’s not what I expected,’’ she said afterward. “There were some not-so-good moments.’’

Some of them involved shooting woes, as if the Gators had fallen into a polar vortex.

“Our shots weren’t falling, and I think that kind of made us forget about defense,’’ she said. “Hopefully, we got it out of our system.’’

Gillom pointed to something that occurred in the first quarter that might have muted the Gators’ momentum.

With 4:01 left in the period, Chandler guard Victoria Mason went down with an injury under the Chandler basket. It looked to be serious as the Activity Center crowd sat in silence and the Gators huddled for a brief prayer. After several moments, Xavier athletic trainer Laurie White and a Chandler assistant coach got Mason to her feet and helped her to the bench.

It appeared to be an ankle injury, but Mason amazingly recovered and returned to play in the third quarter. She scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half.

“When Mason got hurt, we relaxed,’’ Gillom said. “And for Chandler, sometimes when you see that your main player goes down, you get yourself together and you play harder for that player.  That’s kind of what happened.’’

Senior guard Addison Putnam led Xavier with 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and junior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood scored 10, including a trey.

Xavier got a lift of the bench from sophomore guard Victoria Saucedo, who scored the first five points in the third quarter (including a 3) and had another key basket in the fourth.

“She was awesome,’’ Gillom said. “It was good to have that. That’s what you need at this time of year, somebody to step up.’’

Xavier raised its overall record to 23-3 overall, 6-1 in 6A Premier Region play. Chandler dropped to 13-12 and 2-5.

The Gators will play their regular-season finale at home on Tuesday night (Feb. 5), and the battle with Chandler Hamilton (21-5, 6-1) will be for the region title. Xavier gave Hamilton its only region loss, 49-40, at Hamilton on Jan. 18.

The contest also will feature a performance by the Phoenix Mercury’s hip-hop dancers as well as a T-shirt giveaway. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. and will follow the freshman (4 p.m.) and junior-varsity (5:30 p.m.) games.

Gators blanked again, soccer "play-in' this week

The “second season’’ is about to begin for Xavier Prep’s soccer team, but how long will it last?

It’s up to the Gators, who have won two 6A Conference state championships in a row.

Xavier finished its regular season on Friday night (Feb. 1) with a 4-0 loss at Chandler Hamilton.

It was the third straight loss by the Gators, all by shutout. Their record is 8-6-1.

They will have an opportunity to qualify for the state tournament with a “play-in’’ game on Thursday (Feb. 7). The game will be at Xavier (6 p.m.) against an as-yet-to-be-named opponent.

Teams 9 through 24 in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s power-points rankings will participate in the play-in. Xavier was No. 9 prior to meeting Hamilton, but the Gators could slip a spot or two depending on what other teams did in their finales.

Winners of the play-in games will move on to the state tournament and will be seeded against the top eight teams, which automatically qualified. First round of the state tournament will be Saturday, Feb. 9.