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, December 31, 2016

Xavier hoops no longer unbeaten after OT loss

Thank goodness that 2016 has come to an end.
It did not finish the way that Xavier Prep’s basketball team wanted. But now the Gators can have a fresh start in 2017.
Xavier battled Phoenix Sierra Linda on Friday night (Dec. 30) in the final game of the Red Mountain Holiday Classic at Red Mountain High in east Mesa. Both teams were unbeaten.
The game went as one might expect, as both teams had leads at various points.
It was so close that the game went overtime. But Sierra Linda dominated in that extra four minutes and earned a 49-43 victory. Sierra Linda improved to 12-0, while Xavier fell to 13-1.
The Gators will get back on the bike quickly on Wednesday (Jan. 4), when they travel to face Chandler Basha.
The win by Sierra Linda, a 5A Conference team, was no fluke. The Bulldogs recently had defeated a top 6A Conference team, Surprise Valley Vista, and feature one of the state’s best point guards, Jenay Bojorquez. The senior already has committed to play at San Diego State.
Bojorquez came as advertised, setting up teammates with several no-look passes. She sat out for about seven minutes in the second half with her fourth foul. But she came back with 2:25 left in regulation and went on to make a key steal with 7.4 seconds left, but the Bulldogs could not convert as Janae Gonzales (19 points) missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Nothing went right for the Gators in overtime, when they were left flat-footed. They were held scoreless until the final few seconds, when junior forward Montana Oltrogge scored her 16th and 17th points.
In the first half, it appeared that Sierra Linda might run away from XCP. They had a 20-11 lead before Xavier cut it to 25-22 at the intermission.
The Gators finally pulled even at 30 on a bucket by Oltrogge with 13 minutes left in regulation. She would score two more baskets in a row and junior Payton Davis would hit a 3-pointer to put Xavier up 37-34.
Sierra Linda did not score in the final 5:51 and Xavier got free throws from Oltrogge and sophomore point guard Leilani McIntosh for its final points.
Oltrogge had a strong game despite falling to the floor in front of the Sierra Linda bench with 14:26 left in the first half. She stayed down for a few moments, slowly got to her feet and returned after missing only about 4 ½ minutes.
Other scorers for Xavier were sophomore guard Paris Moore (11), Davis (9) and McIntosh (6).
Oltrogge and McIntosh were named to the All-Tournament Team, and Bojorquez was the tournament’s MVP. She had 9 points against Xavier.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

XCP soccer finishes in tourney's top 16

Xavier Prep’s soccer team was able to finish among the top 16 teams despite its first two losses of the season on Wednesday (Dec. 28) in the Excalibur Invitational in Santa Ana, Calif.
After defeating Long Beach (Calif.) Poly on the tournament’s first day on Tuesday (Dec. 27), the Gators narrowly missed advancing in their first game on Wednesday against Redondo (Calif.) Union. Redondo scored a late goal and came away with a 1-0 victory.
Xavier coach Barb Chura said the Gators had their chances to score, but hit the crossbar and post with shots before Redondo scored.
The Gators then faced Foothill High, the team that hosted the event, and fell 5-2. Kyla Ferry scored both XCP goals, assisted by Abby Hubbard.
“Foothill was a very good team,’’ Chura said.
“We got a lot of great competition and good games. Overall, it was a great trip with a lot of team bonding.’’
Xavier (5-2) will begin 2017 with a pair of road games, on Jan. 6 against Scottsdale Desert Mountain and Jan. 10 against Chandler Hamilton. The Gators' first home game of the new year will be Jan. 12 against Yuma Kofa.

Gators' win sets up battle of hoops unbeatens

What better way to end 2016 with a basketball game featuring two unbeaten teams?
That’s what is in store on Friday night (Dec. 30), when Xavier Prep (13-0) meets Phoenix Sierra Linda (11-0) on the final day of the Red Mountain Holiday Classic at Red Mountain High in east Mesa. The game will begin at 6:30 p.m.
Both teams advanced with impressive victories on Thursday (Dec. 29).
Xavier routed Mission Prep of San Luis Obispo, Calif., 60-27, and Sierra Linda rolled past Chandler High, 61-37.
“They (Sierra Linda) are a very quick, athletic team. They have added some size and have one of the top point guards. We will have our hands full,’’ said Xavier coach Stephen Moss.
In past years, Xavier has played in tournaments such as this one, and its record wasn’t nearly as good.
“This time, we are in a good place and that is a good sign for our program,’’ Moss said.
Sierra Linda also should have its hands full with the Gators, particularly if they play the way they did on Thursday.
Xavier poured in eight 3-point shots, half of them by Brittany Robinson in the first half (the teams played two 16-minute halves instead of the usual four 8-minute quarters). Point guard Leilani McIntosh hit a pair of long shots, while Addison Putnam and Isabel Wirth each had one.
Moss said that Robinson, a senior who scored 13 points, “came to play and that’s what I expect.’’
He added that Robinson “is in good spirits’’ after being involved in an auto accident a few weeks ago.
McIntosh, a sophomore, was her usual effective self. She scored about half of her game-high 18 points as the result of steals.
The Gators also featured some of their best passing of the season.
“We talked about having good passes before the game,’’ Moss said. “Sometimes you need to fake a pass to make a pass, don’t directly stare down your teammates. We did a lot better job.’’
The coach called Thursday’s triumph a good team win.
“We have four games in four days, so having a productive bench is important so the starters don’t get tired,’’ he said.
On a related note, Moss is encouraged by the progress of junior forward Alana Kelley as she recovers from knee surgery. Moss said that it is possible that Kelley could see some time in the last few games of the regular season and in the playoffs.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

XCP hoops defeats Desert Vista in tourney

Xavier Prep's basketball team continued its unbeaten ways with a 55-46 victory over Phoenix Desert Vista in Wednesday's (Dec. 28) second round of the Red Mountain Holiday Classic at Red Mountain High in east Mesa.
The Gators (12-0) held a narrow two-point lead at halftime, but turned up the defensive pressure in the third quarter, outscoring the Thunder 17-9.
Xavier defeated the Loyola (Ill.) Academy 51-49 in Tuesday's (Dec. 27) first round.

Xavier moves on to play Mission Prep of San Luis Obispo, Calif., in the third round on Thursday (Dec. 29) at 11 a.m. The Gators also will play on Friday (Dec. 30) against an opponent that has not yet been determined.

Tough defense, Ferry's hat trick spark Gators

The Xavier Prep soccer team broke away in the second half after a 1-1 tie at the break and went on to defeat Long Beach (Calif.) Poly 5-1 in Tuesday’s (Dec. 27) first round of the Excalibur Invitational in Santa Ana, Calif.
Xavier (5-0) was due to play its game in the Round of 16 on Wednesday afternoon (Dec. 28).
Sophomore forward Kyla Ferry continued her strong early season play by scoring a hat trick. Senior Quiqui Hita and senior Olivia Chan also scored goals for the Gators. Freshman Jocelyn Rupp added a pair of assists.
Xavier was helped by some tactical adjustments in the second half, primarily putting a great deal of defensive pressure on Long Beach Poly’s players, and that led to numerous turnovers.
Xavier coach Barb Chura said that the game’s turning point came in the second half on a great save by junior goalkeeper Kinsey Ehmann. She flew through the air to make the big stop, and the Gators scored a few minutes later for a 3-1 lead.
Chan scored Xavier’s fourth goal. She shot the ball from about 40 yards out and put it in the upper corner, over the goalkeeper’s head. Ferry scored her third goal when she headed the ball into the net off a corner kick by junior Abby Hubbard.
Chura credited the play of defenders Katie Moore Nicole Hook, Lauren O’Sullivan and Chan, and midfielders Mady Chait, Maddie Amavilah and Rupp.
“It continues to be very good with the production we are getting from Hubbard, Hita and Ferry,’’ Chura said.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Experience Night Before Christmas, Xavier style

Author’s note: During some of my time writing for Phoenix Newspapers Inc., I produced an annual “rewrite’’ of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,’’ tailoring the content to sports news during that particular year. I decided to try something similar for Xavier readers this year. Hope that it captures a small part of the Christmas spirit

(Thanks to authors Clement C. Moore and Henry Livingston Jr.)

‘Twas the night before Christmas and in Xavier’s house
Not a creature was stirring, even Alli Gator chasing a mouse
Sports socks were hung in the lockers with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas would put new ones there
The athletes were nestled all snug in their beds
With visions of state titles dancing in their heads

In a new Under Armour shirt and checking my lap(top)
I was racking my brain for a Xavier app
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter
Away to the window I flew like a flash
My heart was aflutter, were they picking up trash?

The moon started to crest, the grass newly mowed
If the timing was right perhaps it would snow
When what should my wondering eyes should appear
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer
With a little old driver so lively and quick
He flew in from the South, right over Petznick

And he whistled and shouted and called them by name
Now! Dasher Now! Dancer Now! Prancer and Vixen
On! Comet On! Cupid On! Donder and Blitzen
To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall
Now dash away dash away you’d better not fall

As dry leaves that swirl when the wild winds fly
No worries about obstacles, they take to the sky
So up to the top of the gym they flew
With the sleigh full of toys and St. Nicholas too
With Christmas lights twinkling I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof

As I scratched my head and was turning around
Down the stairs Nicholas came with a bound
Cold made me say brrrrr! There was ice on my foot
His clothes a bit wrinkled, he gave me that look
His eyes how they twinkled his dimples how merry
His cheeks were like roses his nose like a cherry

A smile on his face, the scene was aglow
He couldn’t stay long, had other places to go
A peppermint stick he held tight in his teeth
He saw the art classes’ Christmas wreaths
With a mischevous gaze and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed like strawberry jelly
He was chubby and plump, put gifts on the shelf
And I laughed when I saw him, a cherubic elf

With a tear in his eye, the Scriptures he read
With God as our guide we have nothing to dread
He spoke not a word and went straight to his work
He filled all the stockings, had cookies and milk
And laying his finger aside his nose
And giving a nod, to the rooftop he rose

He jumped into his sleigh, gave his friends a quick whistle
And away they all flew a glowing red missile
Then I heard him exclaim as his contraption took flight
Merry Christmas, Xavier, and to all a good night !!