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.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Encouraging signs for Gators despite loss

To get a better idea of XCP basketball coach Frank Villa’s satisfaction with how his team played on Tuesday night (Dec. 9) in a 65-54 loss to Goodyear Millennium, the No. 1-ranked Division I team in the state by, one has to include a bit of background.
The night before, on Monday night (Dec. 8), the Gators suffered a 52-point road loss to Surprise Valley Vista.
So to come back with a strong performance, one in which the Gators led for a handful of occasions, against such a highly regarded team such as unbeaten Millennium, is noteworthy. Efforts of a similar nature could allow XCP to earn a playoff spot come February.
“Right now, I’ll take it,’’ said Villa, whose team is 3-6. “It was looking bleak (after Monday), but we tried to stay positive in our approach and our girls came back with a great attitude and had a great effort. I will take that every night.’’
The Gators’ aggressiveness allowed them to take a 14-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Xavier continued to battle in the second quarter. A three-point play by senior guard Lexi Carbine gave the Gators a 23-21 lead with 3:05 left before halftime, but Millennium went on an 8-2 run to close out the half for a 29-25 advantage.
Millennium began to pull away in the third quarter and had a 56-40 lead about halfway through the fourth. Xavier outscored the Tigers 14-9 the rest of the way to make it more respectable than many people had envisioned.
“We boxed out quite a bit, had quite a few rebounds and were able to run our plays,’’ Villa said. “And our defense was impressive, particularly early in the game.’’
Xavier had three players score in double figures – Vanessa Murphy (16 points), Carbine (14, in one of her better games) and freshman forward Alana Kelley (12, despite a leg injury that sidelined her briefly).
Millennium was led by guards Quynne Huggins (21 points) and Passionate Amukamara (18).
Xavier takes the floor next on Thursday night (Dec. 11) with a game at Anthem Boulder Creek.

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