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.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Young Gators continue basketball battle

Although the result isn’t always what Xavier’s Gators want at the end of their basketball games, the young team continues to show improvement.
Xavier battled its way to a 53-48 overtime victory over host Mesa Red Mountain in Monday’s (Dec. 29) opening game of the Red Mountain Holiday Classic, then fell in its second game of the day, 43-33 to Mundelein, Ill.
The Gators (5-8) are in Pool A with Red Mountain and Mundelein, and will return to tournament action on Tuesday (Dec. 30).
After defeating Xavier, Mundelein dropped a 40-38 decision to Red Mountain. That put all three teams at 1-1 for the day, setting up a tiebreaker to determine Tuesday’s schedule. The team among the three to give up the fewest points would be Pool A’s top seed on Tuesday, the second-fewest would be the second seed, and the most points allowed would be the third seed.
So Mundelein got the top seed by giving up just 73 points. XCP and Red Mountain tied by giving up 91 points each, so XCP got the No. 2 nod because it defeated Red Mountain. And Red Mountain will be No. 3.
Red Mountain will face Mesa Skyline at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Xavier will meet Anthem Boulder Creek at 3:30 and Mundelein will take on Mesa Dobson at 6:30. Depending on what Xavier does on Tuesday, it would play on Wednesday (Dec. 31) at either 2 p.m. or 3:30.
Xavier defeated Red Mountain by converting 7 of 10 free throws in the four-minute overtime period. All tournament games are played with two 16-minute halves instead of four eight-minute quarters.
Junior Vanessa Murphy led Xavier with 19 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and freshman Alana Kelley contributed 11 points.
Xavier faced a challenge just 27 seconds into the overtime period when energetic freshman forward Montana Oltrogge suffered a knee injury and did not return. She also did not play in the second game. It was unknown how severe the injury was and whether she will miss even more time.
Xavier also did not have senior guard Lexi Carbine for either game because she was dealing with back spasms.
In the game against Mundelein, Xavier had a 33-29 lead when Murphy drilled a 3-pointer with 3:45 left in the game.
But Xavier ran out of gas after that and did not score for the remainder of the contest. Mundelein scored 14 points over those last few minutes.
Xavier interim coach Michelle Williamson had expressed concern between the Red Mountain and Mundelein games how much the overtime would affect the Gators in their second game. Mundelein was playing its first game of the day.
“Fatigue was a factor in that second game, but it wasn’t the only reason (for the loss),’’ Williamson said. “We were getting good shots, but we weren’t putting the ball in the basket. We weren’t finishing our shots, and that is a characteristic of a young team, which we are. We also need to worry less about the tempo of the team we are playing and maintain our own tempo.’’
Murphy was the only Gator to score in double figures in the second game with 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.

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