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.’’