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.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Hoops makeover gives new coach 1st win

The current basketball season has been chock-full of changes, and somehow Xavier’s Gators are making the best of it.
The team started 2015 with its third coach of the season (Stephen Moss-Kelley) on Thursday night (Jan. 8) and was missing three players, all with injuries. One is out for the year (freshman Montana Oltrogge) and it appears doubtful if the other two (senior Lexi Carbine, freshman Katie Hassett) will return.
So Moss-Kelley and his assistants dipped into the junior-varsity ranks and called up three players (freshman Lauren Donohue, sophomore Chelsey Brutlag and junior Brielle Januszewski).
Xavier took the floor at the Activity Center, showed defensive hustle and held off visiting Mesa Westwood 39-35.
The Gators (6-10) have a much tougher assignment on Friday night (Jan. 9), with highly regarded Phoenix Desert Vista coming to the Activity Center. Desert Vista has some high-profile players, some of whom are ticketed to play on national teams and/or have college scholarships locked up.
But Xavier will give its best shot, as it has all season.
Against Westwood, the Gators got 16 points from junior Vanessa Murphy and eight from senior Michaela Palladino. Sophomore guard Brittany Robinson became more involved in the offense, getting more playing time, and junior guard Cydeni Carter played top-notch defense down the stretch to help keep Westwood from tying or overtaking the Gators.
“It is difficult with so many players out, but the girls gave it a good effort and I am proud of them,’’ said Moss-Kelley.
The coach said that Carter, senior forward-guard Marifel Gabriel, Carter, Robinson and sophomore forward Tatum Cork likely will see more playing time as the season moves along.
“You know Cyd is going to come in and play great defense every night, and we got a bonus from Marisol. If they keep playing that way, we definitely have a chance to win some games,’’ Moss-Kelley said.
Xavier got key 3-point baskets from Palladino, Robinson and junior guard Sarah Perrin to help maintain its advantage.
Moss-Kelley, Essence Townsend and Jennifer Gillom are expected to guide the Gators for the rest of the season.

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