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, November 27, 2015

Xavier basketball has big first day

A season-opening basketball tournament should be expected to have its share of hits and misses for high school teams.
The quality of opponents can be good to quite a bit less than that.
So how can you assess Xavier Prep’s opening performance on Friday (Nov. 27) in the first of the two-day Scorpion Shootout at Desert Edge in Goodyear?
The Gators simply were dominant in wins over Scottsdale Coronado (70-4 – yes, 70-4, no typo) and Glendale Copper Canyon (72-29) to advance to Saturday’s (Nov. 28) semifinals.
Xavier will face either Prescott or Mesa Skyline in a semifinal game on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Desert Edge. A semifinal win would put the Gators in the tournament championship game at 7:30 p.m. A semifinal loss would put them in the third-place contest at 6 p.m.
“For our program, it is a matter of comparison for each season,’’ said Xavier coach Stephen Moss. “Faced with the same situation last year, what would we have done? I don’t think it would be anything near what we did today (Friday).
“I think we are definitely ahead of where we were last year. We are not looking past anybody. In order for us to get the respect we want, we have to take care of the teams in front of us, one at a time.’’
Asked what he liked about the first day, Moss said, “We shared the ball very well. We gave up good shots to get great shots. The enthusiasm, particularly off the bench, is much, much better. The girls all get along very well off the court and that carries over to when they play for each other on the court.’’
Eleven of Xavier’s 15 players scored in the win over Copper Canyon. Three were in double figures – sophomore forward Alana Kelley (16 points), freshman point guard Leilani McIntosh (14) and senior forward-post Vanessa Murphy (10).
Kelley and Murphy were the usual workhorses under the basket and McIntosh is opening up a whole new world for everyone with her ball-handling skills, quickness and passing. She even put the ball behind her back on a drive to the basket, finishing it by putting the ball through the hoop. It was reminiscent of Dymond Simon, formerly of Xavier rival Phoenix St. Mary’s, who went on to play at Arizona State.
Another XCP freshman, guard-forward Paris Moore, is a solid defensive player with the potential to be an excellent offensive player.
Several other players are older, wiser and stronger. Included in that mix are senior guard Cydeni Carter, junior forward-post Tatum Cork, junior guard Brittany Robinson and senior point guard Sarah Perrin.
And watch for more improvement up and down the roster. Moss likes to keep his players as fresh as possible and giving them some quality playing time in a tournament such as this can only help down the road.
Xavier opens its home season on Dec. 4 against Chandler Basha. The freshman and junior-varsity teams will play before the varsity contest.

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