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.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

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.

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