Bio

DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four 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, December 5, 2014

Coach hopes defensive changes lead to improvement



Xavier Prep basketball coach Frank Villa would like to force opponents into turning the ball over with a pressure defense, sometimes even before the ball crosses half-court.
But sometimes a coach has to re-think that plan and utilize his players’ talents in other ways.
That is what Villa is facing, at least for now, when he sends the Gators out on the floor.
The pressure doesn’t always work if the other team is quicker. So Villa has dropped the Gators into a 2-3 zone, which he did on Friday night (Dec. 5) in a road game against Chandler Hamilton.
Xavier fell 57-29, dropping its record to 3-4, but its defense improved in the second half even though the score might not have indicated so.
“If we used that zone, it makes them (opponents) shoot more from the outside, and it can help us more with our rebounding,’’ Villa said.
Hamilton had a height advantage, with 6-foot 3 senior Zayn Domstauder and 6-3 sophomore Maya Banks. Both scored eight points.
Xavier had used primarily a man-to-man defense in a 56-44 road loss to Phoenix Thunderbird the night before, and Villa said it took a lot of energy away from the Gators.
Again, the score might not have indicated as much, but the Gators appear to have improved in their attempt to run the offense. Communication is a big key, and sometimes the players think they see something and pass the ball before they see where the defenders are. That often comes with a young team such as the Gators.
“You have to use your decision-making skills,’’ Villa said. “We’re getting better at it. I tell the girls to look around and see where their teammates are. Try to talk to each other. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pass the ball at that particular moment, but the next time down the floor, your teammate might just be open. It’s bound to happen if you are patient.’’
Junior Vanessa Murphy led Xavier with eight points, including a 3-pointer early in the game. Nearly half of the Gators’ points – 14 – came on free throws. Senior Marifel Gabriel scored six points and sophomore Brittany Robinson had five.
Xavier returns to action on Monday (Dec. 8) with a road game against Surprise Valley Vista (7 p.m.) and return home on Tuesday (Dec. 9) to face Goodyear Millennium.




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