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.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

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.

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