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.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Basketball world buzzing over Gators' start

The buzz is beginning.
Buzz about what Xavier Prep’s basketball team is capable of doing, particularly if it continues to play as it did in the Scorpion Shootout over the weekend.
Xavier, which had dealt with injuries and frustration in past years in this tournament, this time walked away unscathed with the championship trophy with a 69-48 victory over Maricopa at Desert Edge High in Goodyear.
Xavier also defeated Mesa Skyline 54-23 earlier on Saturday (Nov. 28), and finished the tournament at 4-0, averaging a robust 66 points per game in the process.
The Gators had three players make the All-Tournament Team – MVP Alana Kelley, Vanessa Murphy and Leilani McIntosh.
Xavier coach Stephen Moss called Kelley, a sophomore, Murphy, a senior, and McIntosh, only a freshman, “a three-headed monster. They are very difficult to stop.’’
Kelley is a major force underneath the basket. Murphy, the team captain, works both the inside and can make three-pointers with regularity. McIntosh’s future appears to be limitless as she already has a lot of polish.
“I keep telling Alana, “You’re not a freshman any more. You’re going to have to step up and do it consistently,’ ’’ Moss said. “Vanessa is our best player and our captain. And Leilani – I can’t stop college coaches calling about her already and she’s only 14 years old.’’
Xavier now has momentum entering its home opener on Friday night (Dec. 4) against Chandler Basha.
Murphy led the way against Maricopa with 18 points. McIntosh had 14, despite not scoring in the first quarter, Kelley had 12 and Paris Moore, another freshman, had 10.
“Everybody contributed,’’ said Moss, who likes to use his entire roster as much as possible. “After having trouble in this tournament before, we were able to come back.
“It’s going to be a daunting season. We have to prove to people and to ourselves that we can be the team we want to be, but we have to do it game after game.’’
It wasn’t easy on Saturday. Xavier won its first game, then had to wait about five hours before playing for the title. The Gators weren’t really close to their homes and they couldn’t do much to relax, other than have a meal.
“That’s where our parents come in, helping to keep an eye on things. They have been very supportive of us,’’ Moss said.

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