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.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Hoops coach "proud of the way they have responded'

With three games this past week and three more in the week coming up, Xavier Prep’s basketball team is trying to survive “an NBA-type schedule,’’ according to coach Stephen Moss.
“The academic challenges are enough in themselves with as many as three to four hours of homework per night, but to do that and play well on the court, I am proud of the way they have responded.’’
The Gators were feeling a bit down after back-to-back losses to Gilbert Highland (Jan. 19) and Gilbert Mesquite (Jan. 22), the latter in overtime. But they bounced back this past week with wins over Mesa Red Mountain, Tempe Corona del Sol and the most recent, a 62-30 road triumph over Mesa Mountain View on Friday night (Jan. 29).
Xavier (15-8) begins next week with home games against Division II Glendale Raymond S. Kellis on Monday (Feb. 1) and Scottsdale Chaparral on Tuesday (Feb. 2) and wraps up the regular season with a road game against Mesa Dobson on Friday (Feb. 5).
Brackets for the Division I state tournament are due to be released by the Arizona Interscholastic Association the next day, Saturday (Feb. 6).
“You want to play your best ball entering the tournament and we are showing signs of that,’’ Moss said. “There is no break for us. We are jockeying for position (seedings). Last season, we were playing just to get better and barely missed (the tournament). This year, we are going to be ready to play.’’
Sophomore forward Alana Kelley led Xavier past Corona del Sol with 17 points and 12 rebounds on Thursday night (Jan. 28), and came back to lead the Gators again against Mountain View with 16 points.
Senior forward Vanessa Murphy scored 14 points, including Xavier’s first 10 points of the game, and sophomore forward-post Montana Oltrogge contributed 12 points.
Murphy connected on three three-pointers and Xavier finished with seven of the long shots. Senior Cydeni Carter had two and junior Brittany Robinson had two.
Moss said he has discovered a pleasant surprise and another option at guard with junior Chelsey Brutlag.
She did not score, but ran the offense well and played solid defense.
“Chelsey is good running the offense. She doesn’t try to do too much. She is a good fit,’’ Moss said. “She also plays good defense. She has earned more playing time by working very hard in practice.’’

Friday, January 29, 2016

Top-seeded Gators ready to get their kicks

Here we go !!
The Division I state soccer bracketing has been set by the Arizona Interscholastic Association has been set, and Xavier Prep’s Gators are the No. 1 seed !!
Xavier, which finished the regular season with a 14-3 record, begins its quest for the school’s ninth state title when it plays host to No. 16 Mesa Red Mountain (7-12-1) on Tuesday night (Feb. 2) at 7.
If the Gators win that one, they would advance to the second round on Feb. 6 against either No. 8 Gilbert Campo Verde or No. 9 Tempe Corona del Sol. That second-round game, at Petznick Field, would begin at either noon or 2 p.m.
Next-door neighbor Brophy Prep is the top seed on the boys’ side, so if the Broncos win their first-round match against Phoenix Desert Vista, they would play at 2 p.m. on Feb. 6 and Xavier would play at noon. If Brophy is eliminated in the first round, Xavier would play at 2 p.m.
Xavier wants to avoid a repeat of 2015, when as the No. 2 seed fell to No. 15 Chandler High in the opening round.
The Gators have a good blend of youth and experience. Sophomore Nicole Hook leads the team in scoring, with freshman Emily Chiao right behind. And senior Lex Allard and junior Quiqui Hita have come on strong down the stretch.
Sophomore Kinsey Ehmann has been stellar in goal, having allowed just nine goals all season.
Here is a look at the 16 Division I seeds:
1 – Xavier Prep. 2 – Gilbert Perry. 3 – Phoenix Desert Vista. 4 – Chandler Hamilton. 5 – Phoenix Pinnacle. 6 – Scottsdale Chaparral. 7 – Scottsdale Desert Mountain. 8 – Gilbert Campo Verde. 9 – Tempe Corona del Sol. 10 – Phoenix Mountain Pointe. 11 – Chandler Basha. 12 – Gilbert Highland. 13 – Gilbert. 14 – Chandler. 15 – Goodyear Millennium. 16 – Mesa Red Mountain.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Xavier poised to claim top soccer seed

After a 4-1 victory over host Anthem Boulder Creek on Wednesday (Jan. 27), Xavier Prep’s soccer team is now in position to be the No. 1 seed in the Division I state tournament that begins next week.
Xavier (14-3) is expected to open tournament play on Tuesday (Feb. 2) against the No. 16 seed. If the power rankings do not change from Thursday (Jan. 28), the opponent likely would be Mesa Red Mountain.
A win in the tournament opener would give Xavier another home game in the second round, on Feb. 6. If neighboring Brophy Prep also advances to the second round, Xavier would play at noon and Brophy at 2 p.m. If Brophy does not advance, Xavier would play at 2 p.m. Xavier games would be at Petznick Field.
Brackets will be officially announced on Friday (Jan. 29) at 2 p.m. in a broadcast on, the Web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association
Scoring Xavier’s goals on Wednesday night were senior Lexi Allard, senior Hannah Paynter, freshman Sadie Wintergalen and junior Quiqui Hita. Allard also provided an assist.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Gators put signature on dotted line with big win

Every successful basketball team can usually point to one or two games in which they achieved all-important “signature’’ victories.
Xavier Prep might consider Tuesday night’s (Jan. 26) 43-38 victory over visiting Mesa Red Mountain as one of those games.
In the first half, the Gators looked to be in trouble. They scored just 12 points in the first 16 minutes and trailed by eight points at halftime.
Then in the second half, the Gators, and senior forward Vanessa Murphy in particular, found the resolve that it takes to get back into the game and even win it.
Murphy scored all of Xavier’s 12 points in the third and added 11 more in the decisive fourth and finished with 27 points.
She hit three three-pointers, including her final shot of the third quarter and her first shot to begin the fourth. She also converted four key free throws in the fourth.
Xavier coach Stephen Moss knows that it will be tough to lose Murphy after this year, when she graduates and moves on to Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. Murphy’s sister, Sam, is an Xavier alumnus and starred at GCU.
“She is 6-feet-2, can score inside and outside, easily a Division I prospect,’’ Moss said. “Grand Canyon will be getting a dream player. She drives herself. She is her own worst critic, and that pushes her to be better.’’
Xavier’s win was significant in that it allowed the Gators (13-8) to move from 10th to eighth in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Division I power rankings, vaulting over Red Mountain (12-10), which slipped from eighth to ninth.
The regular season finishes up next week and if the rankings are the same at the end, Xavier would play a first-round home game against – Red Mountain. The top eight seeds have first-round home games.
Another reason for the significance was that one Xavier player, freshman point guard Leilani McIntosh, sat out with an illness and sophomore forward Alana Kelley was slowed by a sore knee. Both are expected to be available when Xavier travels to Tempe Corona del Sol on Thursday night (Jan. 28).
Senior guards Cydeni Carter and Sarah Perrin helped fill in the gap, as did junior Brittany Robinson and freshman Paris Moore.
Perrin ran the offense from the point most of the time and came through with a key basket on a drive with 1:01 left in the fourth quarter while the outcome was still up in the air.
“Our guards held up pretty well. They did a solid job,’’ Moss said. “I’ve said for most of the season is that this is a growing process and hopefully the way we won this game will help to carry us.’’

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Xavier soccer shines on Senior Night with 3-0 win

Xavier Prep’s six soccer seniors left Petznick Field with big smiles on their faces Monday night (Jan. 25).
On Senior Night, which also was the Gators’ regular-season home finale, Xavier used three second-half goals to post a 3-0 victory over visiting Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.
Xavier (13-3), remains No. 1 on the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s power-points ratings list, and will wrap up the regular season with a road game against Anthem Boulder Creek on Wednesday night (Jan. 27).
The Division I state-tournament seedings will be announced by the AIA on Friday afternoon (Jan. 29), and the Gators likely will be the top seed. That means they will have one home game and possibly two if they win that first one.
The tournament opens Feb. 2 and continues with the quarterfinals on Feb. 6.
Xavier coach Barb Chura knows that winning the tournament will be no easy task. Last season as the No. 2 seed, the Gators fell at home to No. 15 Chandler on penalty kicks at home in the first round of the tournament.
She said that the way the game unfolded against O’Connor can be indicative of a possible playoff scenario, in which a team plays the Gators close most of the way, hoping for overtime and then penalty kicks, as Chandler did a year ago.
“They just want to keep it close and see if they can get you into penalty kicks,’’ she said.
The game against O’Connor appeared that it might be headed in that direction before Xavier broke the ice with about 23 minutes left in the contest on a goal by senior Lexi Allard.
Sophomore Abby Hubbard scored the second goal with 9:59 left, and sophomore Nicole Hook picked up the third goal with 7:21 left.
Sophomore goalkeeper Kinsey Ehmann recorded her ninth shutout of the season. Her defensive teammates kept O’Connor away from the goal most of the night.
“When you have a close game like that for awhile, you have to figure it is a matter of time (until a goal is scored),’’ Chura said. “When you get one, you can get two or three and things get rolling.’’
She was happy that all the seniors were able to get playing time. Some have not played a lot this season, but they could assume important reserve roles once the tournament begins.