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, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Early deficit tough for Gators to overcome

It was Day Two on Tuesday (Dec. 30) for Xavier Prep’s basketball team in the (Mesa) Red Mountain Holiday Classic.
The Gators, who split their two games on Monday (Dec. 29), dug themselves an early hole against Anthem Boulder Creek. XCP battled back to within two points at halftime but couldn’t quite make a complete comeback, falling 51-46.
Xavier (5-9) will wrap things up in the tournament on Wednesday (Dec. 31) with a 2 p.m. game against Cave Creek Cactus Shadows. The winner will earn seventh place in the 12-team event.
“We had too many turnovers in the beginning of the game (XCP had a double-digit deficit), and that makes it very difficult to get back in the game,’’ said coach Michelle Williamson. “It is possible – we got close – but the players have to have that fight in them and be aggressive.’’
As the coach said, that didn’t happen on a consistent basis and it cost the Gators.
“We played good defense, but we let them get too many boards,’’ she said.
The goal now is to try to improve the team’s rebounding. How to do it will be a big challenge for Williamson and assistant Stephen Moss-Kelly, because it appears the Gators will be without promising freshman forward Montana Oltrogge for a lengthy stretch of time with a serious knee injury, according to Williamson.
Oltrogge suffered the injury in Monday’s win over Mesa Red Mountain.
Williamson said getting a couple of reinforcements from the junior-varsity squad is a possibility, but she isn’t ready to do that yet.
Boulder Creek, which had defeated Xavier 50-29 at Boulder Creek on Dec. 11, jumped back out to an eight-point advantage about halfway through the 16-minute second half. Xavier closed the gap again to 39-37 with 5:53 left on a 3-pointer by Brittany Robinson, one of two for her on the afternoon.
But time began to run out on the Gators, forcing them to foul and send Boulder Creek to the free-throw line.
Boulder Creek had three players score in double figures. Xavier was led by junior Vanessa Murphy, who scored 18 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
The Gators did receive a bit of good news on Tuesday. Williamson said senior guard Lexi Carbine, who had missed the first three games of the tournament with back spasms, will suit up on Wednesday. Whether she plays, and how much she plays, will be determined if the back loosens up sufficiently during pre-game warm-ups.

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