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.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sectional hoops tourney within reach for XCP

Full of energy and focus, the Xavier basketball team took a big step toward reaching its immediate goal on Friday night (Jan. 30) with a big 59-30 road victory over Scottsdale Desert Mountain.
The Gators ran their overall record to 9-15 and Division I, Section III mark to 4-3. Coach Stephen Moss-Kelley recently said that the team likely would need to win two of its final three to earn a spot in the super-sectional tournament, in which state tournament participants are determined.
That is why the win over Desert Mountain was so important. Xavier will have two more sectional games next week – the regular-season home finale against Phoenix Pinnacle on Wednesday (Feb. 4) and regular-season finale on the road against Mesa Dobson on Friday (Feb. 6).
If the Gators play like they did against Desert Mountain, the super-sectional spot would appear to be a realistic goal.
Xavier got 16 points from freshman forward Alana Kelley and 14 from junior guard-forward Vanessa Murphy. But the Gators got a big boost from 6-1 junior forward Brielle Januszewski.
Januszewski, who had played on the junior varsity for much of the season before injuries to varsity players forced some roster adjustments, scored 16 points and was all over the floor. Her recent rise comes at the right time, with freshmen Katie Hassett and Montana Oltrogge sidelined for the rest of the season with injuries.
Friday night’s game also saw the return of senior guard Lexi Carbine, who had missed several games with an injury.
Xavier outscored the Wolves 15-1 in the first quarter, and the rout was on. With a 32-point lead entering the fourth quarter, the clock was changed to a running clock, which is by rule.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Xavier soccer gets state tourney No. 2 seed

The real soccer season begins now for Xavier Prep.
The 2015 Division I state tournament rankings/pairings were released on Friday (Jan. 30) by the Arizona Interscholastic Association, and the Gators are the No. 2 seed behind top seed Scottsdale Desert Mountain.
Xavier’s most recent title came in 2013 under long-time coach Barb Chura.
In the opening round on Tuesday (Feb. 3), the Gators will play host to No. 15 Chandler at 7 p.m. as part of a double-header. No. 10 Surprise Willow Canyon will meet No. 7 Tempe Corona del Sol at 5 p.m. at XCP.
Of Xavier’s 16 victories (16-1-1), nine are by shutout. The Gators’ top scorer is senior Tessa Zaccagnio, who has produced a goal in just about every game this season.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Umbrella weather perfect for Gators

A steady rain was not about to dampen the spirits of Xavier’s soccer players on Thursday night (Jan. 29).
The Gators had work to do. After a tough 1-0 setback at Scottsdale Desert Mountain on Tuesday night (Jan. 27), they wanted to come back and finish strong in their regular-season finale against visiting Chandler Hamilton.
They did just that, scoring a pair of first-half goals and letting the defense take over in the second half for a 2-0 victory.
The Division I state tournament seedings will be announced on Friday (Jan. 30) at 2 p.m. and the top three likely will be Desert Mountain, Xavier and Hamilton. All are expected to get home games in the first round that begins next week.
“Any time you lose, people think that you are playing badly,’’ Xavier coach Barb Chura said of the loss to Desert Mountain. “But we aren’t. We have been playing well all along.’’
The Gators won’t change much, if anything, in the tournament. They will rely on strong defense and goal keeping and the play in front of the goal by their leading scorer, senior forward Tessa Zaccagnio.
Zaccagnio got the assist on the opening goal by freshman Abby Hubbard with 25:09 left in the first half. At the 9:13 mark, Zaccagnio was on the receiving end of an assist from Amanda Lane for the 2-0 lead.
Hamilton came back in the second half and had several scoring attempts, but could not put the ball in the net.
“We knew they were going to come back strong,’’ said Chura, whose team is 16-1-1. “They are a very good team.’’

Gators have big rally, can't quite finish

Which is the real Xavier Prep basketball team?
The one that scored only eight points in the first half against visiting Phoenix Horizon on Wednesday night (Jan. 28)?
Or the one that scored 44 points in the second half and nearly pulled a stunning comeback before falling 56-52?
Gators coach Stephen Moss-Kelley certainly hopes it is the latter.
Xavier certainly will need plenty more of that type of play in its remaining three sectional games (Division I, Section III) if they are to qualify for the sectional tournament that determines state tournament participants.
The Gators play their final three games against Scottsdale Desert Mountain on Friday night (Jan. 30), Phoenix Pinnacle and Mesa Dobson next week.
“We’re probably going to have to win two out of those three (to qualify),’’ Moss-Kelley said.
Xavier had used a lot of energy on Tuesday night (Jan. 27) in a 39-38 non-sectional setback to visiting Avondale Westview.
“So we came out (against Horizon) and we were sleepwalking,’’ Moss-Kelley said.
“The encouraging thing for us was that some of the past teams might have just laid down, but we hustled to come back in the second half and we almost did it. That’s a sign of a team that’s trying to learn.’’
Junior forward-guard Vanessa Murphy did not score in the first half, but came back with a flourish in the second half. She and freshman forward Alana Kelley combined for 33 points on the night.
Xavier had a difficult time trying to deal with Horizon 6-foot-3 junior post Katie Grant and guard-forward Andrea Easley.
Grant scored 14 points, but her biggest contribution came on defense when she blocked shots inside or altered others. Easley hit from both inside and out.
Xavier used some full-court pressure to force turnovers and get back into the game in the second half.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

XCP student carries equestrian banner

Participating in equestrian competition among Arizona high schools is a rarity, but Xavier Prep has a rider who is carrying that banner.
She is Jacqueline Dickey, a junior, who competes in show jumping events and appears to be getting better each time out on the course.
Dickey said she has been riding for about 11 years, and is a member of the U.S. Equestrian Foundation  High School Equestrian Athlete Program. To be eligible for a varsity letter, a candidate must have 100 hours of training and be involved in three competitions during the year.
Dickey has that covered – she trains and competes year-round.
The trick is to ride your horse around the course, getting around the corners as fast as possible, and without knocking down the rails.
“It’s not always easy getting a “clean’’ round, but I have been fortunate to have a few. It is fun when you are able to do that,’’ Dickey said.
Dickey became interested in riding after watching her uncle, Ken, riding near his horse barn area in east-central Phoenix. She gradually worked her way up to training six days a week, mainly after school but occasionally in the morning, with a full day on weekends.
She enjoys working with the horses, but the workout doesn’t always include actual jumping. Much like human athletes, a horse will be involved in “conditioning,’’ walking or trotting at various speeds, moving side to side and using a different part of their body that allows them to become accustomed to the physical demands of competition.
She needed to learn the terminology and how to care for the horses when needed, such as brushing them and cleaning the tack (equipment).
“It was kind of difficult to learn at first, but the more you did it, the easier a lot of those things were,’’ Dickey said.
The schedule for Dickey is busy with school work, the equestrian and her involvement with the Xavier Gator Line dance team that performs at athletic and other school events.
“It can get pretty crazy, but I really enjoy everything, being at Xavier, It is exciting,’’ she said.
Many of her competitions are not in state, but a lot are in California and she said can involve as many as 2,000 horses.
She hopes to be able to continue riding in college. A decision on which school she will attend probably won’t come at least until later this year, but she has some visits lined up at schools that feature the sport, some of them in the South. She hopes to study a pharmacy-related curriculum.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

XCP's Buness earns Wendy's Heisman designation

Xavier senior badminton and lacrosse player Areta Buness has been selected as the school’s Wendy’s High School Heisman Award winner.
Buness, who helped the Gators win the 2014 badminton team championship, is one of 20 state finalists from Arizona (10 girls, 10 boys). She received a Wendy’s High School Heisman patch and a Wendy’s gift card.
Candidates are nominated and selected on the basis of their achievements on the field, in the classroom and in the community.