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, January 21, 2015

Big hoops road win gives boost to Gators

What do you know, two in a row!!
Xavier Prep’s Gators won their second straight basketball game on Tuesday night (Jan. 20), coming up with some key plays down the stretch for a big 42-39 road victory at Mesa High.
The win earned the Gators some valuable power points because it was a section game (Division I, Section III). Xavier is now 8-12 overall, while Mesa fell to 12-8. Xavier had defeated Phoenix North Canyon 52-39 on Jan. 15.
“We tell our girls all the time – they are just as good as other teams,’’ said Xavier coach Stephen Moss-Kelley. “They are capable of matching up with just about any team on any given night. It’s a matter of them believing in themselves, and they are starting to believe.’’
Xavier was in front most of the first half before Mesa rallied to take a one-point advantage at halftime.
Xavier jumped out to a quick lead in the third quarter, but Mesa rallied again to lead at the end of the period, thanks to a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Carley Turnbull.
Mesa held a 39-37 lead with 3:59 left in the game, but would not score after that as Xavier’s defense went to work.
Vanessa Murphy drilled a 3-pointer with 2:30 left to put Xavier up 40-39 and the Gators continued to play aggressive defense.
Mesa took the ball and attempted to score, but Xavier grabbed the ball and called timeout with 55.8 seconds remaining.
The Gators got the ball to point guard Michaela Palladino in the left corner. She moved along the baseline toward the basket and spotted Alana Kelley open in the lane. Palladino gave Kelley a perfect pass and Kelley put the ball in the basket with 37 seconds left for a 42-39 lead.
Xavier missed a free throw with 14.4 seconds left and Mesa got the ball and called timeout at the 12.2 mark, but the Jackrabbits saw the remaining time slip away.
“Michaela can always take her opponent, and Alana got in a great spot,’’ Moss-Kelley said.
“This was a big, emotional win for us because it was a sectional game.’’
Alana Kelley scored 18 to lead Xavier and Murphy had 13.
Xavier returns home on Friday night (Jan. 23) to face Mesa Mountain View. Tipoff is at 7.

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