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 30, 2017

Gators take title in hoops tourney with 10th win in row

How did Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom assess her team’s 61-42 victory over host Mesa Red Mountain in Saturday’s (Dec. 30) championship game of the Red Mountain Invitational?

“It was exactly what we needed,’’ she said after the Gators won their fourth straight in the tournament and 10th in a row overall to put their record at 12-3.

“We were a bit conservative is some of the earlier games in the tournament, but today we put on our track suits and played the type of ball that we like to play.’’

Red Mountain (10-5), a 6A Conference school like Xavier, was a stronger opponent than some of the other teams in the tournament, showing more athleticism and defensive pressure. Like Xavier, the Mountain Lions had won their first three games of the tournament.
“Red Mountain is a good team. They are athletic, but they’re not as deep as some teams,’’ Gillom said.

“We executed well, used our press and got some steals that got us some extra points.’’

Junior point guard Leilani McIntosh and senior forward Montana Oltrogge had more limited roles as they nursed leg soreness, but they still managed to lead the Gators in scoring with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

“We needed them to rest some,’’ said Gillom, whose team’s next game is on Wednesday (Jan. 3) against Chandler Basha at the Activity Center.

Red Mountain did its best to stay within range of the Gators in the first half, but started to let it slip away early in the second half as Xavier went on a 14-5 run.

Oltrogge and junior guard Paris Moore were named to the All-Tournament Team. Moore had a big effort for the Gators on Saturday.

“Paris was great for us at both ends of the floor. She really stepped up when we needed her to,’’ Gillom said.

Xavier has strong showing in Excalibur soccer tourney

Xavier Prep’s soccer team begins 2018 following a strong effort in the prestigious Excalibur Invitational tournament in Norco, Calif.

The Gators split four games in the tournament. They defeated Canyon High of Anaheim 3-1, Heritage (Calif.) 3-2 and had two oh-so-close 1-0 losses to Los Osos (Calif.) and San Clemente (Calif.).  Xavier finished seventh out of 24 teams while Los Osos won its bracket and San Clemente finished fifth.

“It was great competition,’’ said Gators coach Barb Chura.

Xavier (7-2) actually scored first against San Clemente but the goal was negated.

“The ball was in the goal but the goalkeeper scooped it out and the referee decided the goal did not count even though it was in. We would have gone ahead,’’ said Chura.

“To know we could have won all four games is something to build off of.’’

In the opener against Canyon on Wednesday (Dec. 27), Kyla Ferry accounted for all of XCP’s scoring with a three-goal hat trick. The Gators had a number of chances to score in their game against Los Osos, but couldn’t quite get the ball in the net.

In the game against Heritage on Thursday (Dec. 28), the Gators rallied from a 2-0 deficit. Goals by Abby Hubbard and Brynn Lebel helped Xavier get even.

A great play pushed the Gators over the top. Mady Chait took a throw-in and Ferry headed the ball over to Lebel, who was closer to the goal, and she finished off the play.

Ferry and defensive anchor Nicole Hook were named to the All-Tournament Team.

“There were only 11 players named out of 500 players on 24 teams, so this is a huge honor for both of our players,’’ Chura said. “We are very proud of them.’’

The Gators now are back home but will begin the 2018 part of their schedule with another lengthy road trip, this time to face Yuma Kofa on Friday (Jan. 5). The contest will begin at 5 p.m.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Xavier pays heed to message from hoops coach

Most basketball teams would be quite satisfied with a 16-point halftime lead.

Xavier Prep coach Jennifer Gillom was, but then she wasn’t, and the latter was the focus of her words to her players at halftime of their game against Mesa Skyline in the Red Mountain Invitational on Friday (Dec. 29) in Mesa.

Gillom felt her team was more or less going through the motions, perhaps fueled by the memory of a 44-point win over Skyline at Xavier about a month ago.

“My (halftime) message got across’’ was how Gillom described it.

“I said that this is the time when we are supposed to start being at our best. We don’t have any business going backward. We need to go forward.

“And you can’t really go by what happened in the past. Any team can come up and beat you. And we (coaches) knew that that was what they (Skyline) would try to do, come out and try to play us as tough as they could.’’

With a 22-6 lead at halftime, Xavier turned up the pressure on defense in the second half, picked up the pace on offense and went on to take a 57-19 victory.

After winning all three of its first three games in the tournament, Xavier is now 11-3. The Gators will play their tournament finale on Saturday (Dec. 30) at 5 p.m. against host Red Mountain.

Gillom admitted that she was trying to get some of her players a break with one game to go.

“It’s hard pulling the reins in on defense when the players want to pressure the opponent all the time,’’ she said.

Eleven players put points on the board for the Gators.

Senior forward Katie Hassett continues to take more of a prominent role inside at both ends of the floor. She scored 12 points against Skyline. Junior guards Addison Putnam and Leilani McIntosh had 9 points each. Putnam had all of her points on 3-pointers and McIntosh chipped in with a long-range basket.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Gators finishing strong, look for happier New Year

We are nearing the annual convergence where one year ends and blends into the start of another.

Xavier Prep’s basketball team is roaring toward the finish of 2017, and the question remains, can the Gators pick up in 2018 where they left off?

A lot of good signs point toward even greater productivity in the New Year after the Gators recorded a pair of lopsided victories on Thursday (Dec. 28) at the Red Mountain Invitational in Mesa.

Xavier began the afternoon with a 60-29 win over St. Joseph’s of California, then ran past Vail Cienega (Tucson area), 57-23.

The Gators (10-3 overall) face Mesa Skyline on Friday (Dec. 29) at 3:30 p.m. and host Red Mountain on Saturday (Dec. 30) at 5:30 p.m. Xavier defeated Skyline earlier this season, 73-29 on Dec. 1.

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom, refreshed from a visit to see family in her native Mississippi over the holiday, wasn’t quite sure what to expect from St. Joseph. Her objective was to get the win while allowing her front-line players to conserve some of their energy for the contest against Cienega.

The plan worked out fine.

Xavier struggled a bit early against St. Joseph and established itself later and then put on an even stronger performance against Cienega.

 All games here are played in two 16-minute halves and if a running clock is necessary due to a large lead, that picks up at the 8-minute mark of the second half. The Gators got the running clock in both games.

“I think these were two games that our fans really enjoyed watching,’’ Gillom said.

“We kind of played as individuals in the first game, but in the second game, we played more as a team. We put a lot of pressure on in both games, but in particular in the second game when it really took over.’’

Senior forward Montana Oltrogge scored 23 points to pace Xavier in the first game. Senior Katie Hassett, her running mate underneath the basket, led the Gators in the second game with 13 points in one of her strongest offensive efforts of the season. Oltrogge scored 10 points, as did junior point guard Leilani McIntosh.

Xavier’s effort was much more balanced against Cienega, which is in the 5A Conference, one level below the Gators.

Xavier was accurate from long range on the day, combining to hit 10 3-pointers for the two games.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

McIntosh becomes complete player for XCP hoops

As Leilani McIntosh gains maturity, so does the Xavier Prep basketball team.

It seems that most everything about the junior point guard’s game has picked up, and it is showing in the Gators’ record. They are 8-3 entering the (Mesa) Red Mountain invitational tournament that begins on Thursday (Dec. 28) and runs through Saturday (Dec. 30).

Xavier will play two games on the first day, against St. Joseph (Lakewood, Calif.) at 2:30 p.m. and Vail Cienega at 5:30. The Gators also will face Mesa Skyline on Friday at 3:30 p.m. and host Red Mountain on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

Opponents know that the 5-foot-6 McIntosh will be bringing the ball down the floor most of the time, but she has improved in other aspects such as defense, rebounding and shooting.

“Some days, your shot is not falling but you can make up for it in a lot of other ways,’’ she said.

McIntosh is averaging 11.4 points per game, second on the team behind senior forward Montana Oltrogge’s 19.2. McIntosh also averages six assists and 3.9 rebounds. And Xavier has pressured opponents relentlessly on defense, with an average of 23.4 steals for the team. McIntosh is at the top of those charts with an average of 7.4.

Xavier point guard Leilani McIntosh looks forward to a big second half of the basketball season. (Xavier photo).

“When you steal the ball like that, it can help the offense get going, too,’’ she said.

Xavier struggled a bit in the early going, finishing 2-3 in the (Gilbert) Highland tournament, but has won six in a row since.

“If you are going to have that happen, it’s better that you do it early than late,’’ McIntosh said. “We’re meshing together now. Everything is flowing together slowly. We are getting there.’’

She first had the basketball in her hands on a regular basis at around the age of 6. She played on a youth team with Oltrogge and another future Xavier teammate, Paris Moore.

As she got older and a decision approached about which high school to attend, Oltrogge offered McIntosh a suggestion.

“She knew that I was looking around for a school and she just said, “If you’re interested, come on over and take the (entrance) test.’ I got in and so did Paris and it has been great,’’ McIntosh said.

The tougher opponents “make you better, and you need to build off of that pressure,’’ she said.

Some of her biggest improvement has come at reading defenses and setting up her teammates with passes.

“When you make a nice pass, I think it helps to hype the team up,’’ McIntosh said. “I think what also helps me is that I have pretty good peripheral vision. The vision also helps on defense. You want to pressure the other team, be destructive on defense.’’

Although she won’t be a senior until next year, McIntosh is beginning to draw attention from colleges. The two most notable are Cal State-Fullerton and San Diego State.

“But I’m waiting (to make a commitment). It’s still early,’’ she said.

McIntosh leans on the experience of and advice from Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom, who has excelled at every level, college, Olympics and professional.

“She tells me that, “There might be a few coaches coming to see you,’ ’’ McIntosh said.

“Having her as a coach is great. She doesn’t take anything (from players or others), tries to teach good discipline. She stands up for herself and we know she will stand up for us. You can’t argue with an Olympian. You are listening to a legend. She is really smart, too.’’

McIntosh also has an interesting first name. Leilani is not something you hear every day, especially in the desert. It conjures up a scene somewhere on a tropical island. In this case, the last part has some truth to it.

“I was the first (born) and my mom wasn’t sure what to name me. So it was basically my aunt who decided. We have some family in Hawaii and have gone over there a few times, so that is where it came from,’’ said McIntosh, who also goes by the simpler, shorter version of “Lei.’’

Soccer's Ferry: "You have to be able to sacrifice'

Kyla Ferry’s world keeps spinning, and no matter how busy it gets, she doesn’t seem like she’s ready to stop and take a rest.

As the week before Christmas neared its end, she joined other Xavier Prep students and took her final exams, six to be exact.

But there was little time to relax. On her final day of exams, she had just enough time to grab something for lunch and get to soccer practice.

The Gators were preparing for their trip to southern California to participate in the annual Excalibur tournament in Norco, near Riverside.

The tournament begins Dec. 27 and runs through Dec. 29. Xavier is expected to play three or four games in the event.
“The tournament is good because unlike here in Arizona, teams don’t know you and you don’t know them. You can just go out and play, don’t have to worry about anything. The thing about this tournament is that all of the teams are really good,’’ said Ferry, a junior.

The trip serves as a bonding experience. Ferry recalled how important it was a year ago, when the Gators played well in the tournament and, after returning to Arizona, going all the way to the 6A Conference state championship game, where they defeated Phoenix Desert Vista for the title.

Xavier junior Kyla Ferry (Photo by Top Drawer Soccer).

“I still get goose bumps when I think about that (title),’’ she said. “I want to win another one. Since we won state, everyone wants to beat us, but we like the pressure.’’

For Xavier to win it again, the team will have to rely on Ferry, a forward/midfielder, to produce as she has in the early part of the season.

According to MaxPreps, Ferry has played in four of the team’s five games and has scored nine goals to go with four assists for 22 points. Senior forward Abby Hubbard is next with seven goals and three assists in five games.

Xavier coach Barb Chura says Ferry “might just be the best player in Arizona and is one of the best in the country.’’

Colleges already have noticed. Ferry, who also plays club ball, already has a college scholarship lined up, to the University of Colorado. She also received attention from the University of Arizona and Oklahoma.

“I have been playing a long time, for 10 years, since I was 6,’’ she said. “When I started to play soccer, I fell in love with it. It takes a long time to learn some of the things and sometimes you can get tired, but if you love it that much, you have to be able to sacrifice to reach your goal.’’

She had been contacted by a few schools and then Colorado called. She hadn’t really thought about the Buffaloes up to that point, but took a visit and discovered “that it’s really nice, everything I wanted (business and sports broadcasting). They are in the Pac-12 and that’s a tough conference.’’

There’s still almost two years before she lands in Boulder for a permanent stay, so that gives her even more time to refine her soccer skills.

It takes only a few moments of conversation with Ferry to realize that she is mature and has developed strong leadership qualities.

“Sometimes I think I need to do more than I do to get better,’’ she said. “I want to help the younger players as the older players helped me when I first came here. You want to help them gain confidence, encourage them.’’

She said she has received advice from her father, Jay Michael, a former soccer player at Brophy Prep, as well as “a lot of good coaches’’ coming up through the years.

Some of those coaches have told her that she has “a good soccer IQ, in terms of tactical things. I am out there and things sometimes move slowly and that allows me to consider what might happen. And if they don’t happen, consider what I might be able to do to make them happen.’’

Doing something like that is important, she said, “and I put a lot on myself. I love scoring goals and I love taking on that pressure.’’

Ferry has a 4.2 grade-point average and is a member of the National Honor Society. Combine that with her soccer ability and you’ve got a very good player.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Gators play through the bruises to pop Perry

Xavier Prep played its first 6A Conference Premier Region game on Friday night (Dec. 15), and Gators coach Jennifer Gillom wasn’t too surprised about how it played out in her team’s 68-49 victory at Gilbert Perry.

Xavier had had it relatively easy in some of the games leading up to this one, but Gillom figured that would not be the case against the Pumas.

“It was physical, and we knew it would be,’’ Gillom said.

“We did not shoot very well, but we made up for it in other ways. We played hard – the way I wanted. We got some steals and we crashed the boards, and those things led to easier shots.’’

A few of the Gators were nursing a few war wounds (bruises) afterward, but did not appear to be too worse for wear.

Xavier (8-3 overall, 1-0 region) outscored Perry (6-5, 1-1) 21-7 in the first quarter and had a 40-22 lead at halftime.The Gators’ defense took over in the third quarter, holding the Pumas to just six points. Perry attemped to get back into it in the fourth, but by then it was too late.

The Gators had three players score in double figures and two others were just one point shy.

Point guard Leilani McIntosh scored 16 points to lead the way, while wing player Addison Putnam and forward Montana Oltrogge each had 15. Putnam connected on three 3-pointers in the second half, half of the team’s total on the night.

“The type of play in our (region) is tough, so it’s good to get that first one,’’ Gillom said. “We expect everybody to play tough against us.’’

Xavier will have a much-needed break in the early part of next week, allowing the players to heal. They will have three practice days in a row – Thursday (Dec. 21), Friday (Dec. 22) and Saturday (Dec. 23) before Christmas, and in the days following the holiday will play in a holiday invitational at Mesa Red Mountain.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Soccer ball bounces in Gators' direction

A soccer ball is round and relatively smooth, but sometimes the bounces it takes do not match.

Take Xavier Prep’s game against visiting Scottsdale Desert Mountain on Wednesday night (Dec. 13).

After a scoreless first half at Petznick Field, Desert Mountain took a 1-0 lead on a nicely placed free kick by Madison Sleiman with 22:30 remaining in regulation.

Just 19 seconds later, Xavier tied it when the Desert Mountain goalkeeper seemingly had the ball under control on a shot by junior Kyla Ferry, only to let it slip off her fingertips and into the back of the net.

“To be able to respond quickly is important,’’ said Xavier coach Barb Chura. “That play gave us life, and it was like, “All right, here we go.’ ’’

The momentum allowed the Gators to remain unbeaten after five games with a 3-1 victory.

Another strange bounce gave XCP the go-ahead goal and a lead it would not relinquish.

A corner kick by Xavier slithered through numerous players stationed in front of the goal. Ferry, who has done a lot of work in practice with being able to redirect the path of a pass or kick, did so again here, as the ball ricocheted off her foot and past the surprised goalie with 13:21 left.

The Gators’ insurance goal with 7:35 left involved senior goalie Kinsey Ehmann.

Ehmann always has had a strong leg and even scored a goal from near midfield in club ball, according to Chura.

Ehmann boomed the ball down the field from near her own goal and the ball bounced near senior Abby Hubbard, who sent the ball in for goal No. 3.

“Kinsey likes to do that sometimes, get the ball as far down the field as she can,’’ Chura said.

The coach said that Desert Mountain was by far the best team the Gators have played to this point. The Wolves showed that in the first half, particularly with ball and player placement, quickness and aggressiveness.

At halftime, Chura gave her team a pointed warning that if they did not step up their level of play, they would find themselves very disappointed by the end of the night.

The Gators listened and did what they needed to do.

Xavier will take nearly a week off before resuming practice on Dec. 21, with two more tune-up sessions on Dec. 22 and 23 as the team prepares for its annual trip to the Excalibur Invitational in Santa Ana, Calif., Dec. 26-28.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

XCP soccer remains unbeaten with shutout of Highland

The Gators from Xavier Prep picked up their fourth shutout in as many games with a 2-0 road victory over Gilbert Highland on Monday night (Dec. 11).

Xavier scored a goal in each half. Kyla Ferry scored one goal and had an assist on the other, scored by Abby Hubbard. Elizabeth Warren also recorded an assist.

The Gators return home to Petznick Field on Wednesday night (Dec. 13) for a match against Scottsdale Desert Mountain.  The event begins at 6.

After the Desert Mountain contest, Xavier will not play again until the week between Christmas and New Year’s, when the team will be among dozens of teams participating in the Excalibur Invitational in southern California. The Gators would have up to five games to play.

Gator basketball runs and so does the clock

Winning by huge margins can be a good thing, but you don’t necessarily go out and throw caution to the wind just because an opponent is not at your level.

Xavier Prep’s basketball dominated its opponent again on Monday night (Dec. 11), rolling to a 93-21 victory at neighboring Phoenix Central. The Gators climbed to 7-3 overall, and they have used a running clock (no stoppages until the final minute) in five of those games.

It is good for coach Jennifer Gillom to be able to play her whole roster. The games are seeming so easy, but that will end sooner or later with much better competition and the team also must be ready for that.

The Gators should get more of a taste of reality when they visit Gilbert Perry on Friday night (Dec. 15). Perry was 5-3 entering its game at Mesa High on Tuesday night (Dec. 12). After that, Xavier won’t play again until a holiday tournament at Mesa Red Mountain, between Christmas and New Year’s.

Against Central, the Gators once again applied full-court pressure in order to force turnovers that would help them carve out a big lead. Xavier rang up 21 points before the Bobcats were able to score on a free throw with 3:51 left in the first quarter. The Gators led 38-3 at the end of the period.

Gillom played most of her starters until late in the third quarter, and by the time that period ended, Xavier led 89-17.

Xavier had four players score in double figures. They were senior forward Montana Oltrogge (26 points), junior guard Addison Putnam (14), point guard Leilani McIntosh (12) and sophomore forward-guard Elysia Fleetwood (10).

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Gators' Bryant selected volleyball Coach of the Year

Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, but Xavier Prep volleyball coach Lamar-Renee Bryant’s quiet time was being interrupted by phone call after phone call.

And for good reason. Bryant was being congratulated for the announcement by the news outlet that she had been named Coach of the Year. The selection was made by azcentral staffers after analyzing the matches they had seen and from comments by other coaches.

Bryant led Xavier to a 40-3 record and the 6A Conference state championship with a four-set win over Tempe Corona del Sol, which won the 2016 title.

Xavier also received two other honors as a result – senior outside hitter Lanie Wagner was named All-Arizona and is a nominee for Player of the Year; and junior setter Shannon Shields was named Honorable Mention.

Players of the Year will be announced at a live program in June.

“It was a really good year for us,’’ Bryant said. “This honor means a lot, but it was the state championship that means the most.

“At the beginning of the year, I don’t know if people considered us to be among the top teams, but as a result of the girls’ work ethic, we were able to play very well. We always talked about being the best version of yourself. As long as we were moving in the right direction, everybody was able to buy into that. And we had a lot of good leadership from our seniors.’’

Friday, December 8, 2017

Xavier swim-dive honors are bittersweet

The Fantastic Fall for Xavier Prep sports has brought home even more recognition.

The news outlet has announced its Coaches of the Year and eight Swimmer of the Year nominees, and Xavier figures prominently in both.

After the death of head coach Mo Rankin in late September, assistant Jenny James and Rankin’s husband, Mark, took over the Gators and pushed them all the way through the state meet, where they compiled an impressive 321 points for the school’s 28th swim and dive state crown.

Xavier’s Swimmer of the Year nominee is senior Kaitlyn McCoy, who won the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard backstroke for the second straight year. She also swam the first leg of the 200-yard medley relay and was among the four Gators who finished as state runner-up in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

Athletes and coaches from all sports, both girls and boys, will be honored by at an awards event in June.

Soccer players still getting used to each other

They were back-to-back victories on back-to-back nights for Xavier Prep’s soccer team, but they were delivered in different ways.

Wednesday night’s (Dec. 6) 5-0 victory at Phoenix Horizon came despite the team being a bit out of sorts and lacking some of the cohesion that coach Barb Chura wants to see.

One night later, on Thursday (Dec. 7), the Gators were back to being their old selves and used a strong all-around effort as they trounced visiting Phoenix Trevor Browne 11-0 at Petznick Field.

Xavier is now 3-0, with all three wins coming via shutout. The Gators return to action on Monday (Dec. 11) with a game at Gilbert Highland. The contest begins at 6 p.m.

“Sometimes frustration sets in, so you have to figure things out internally to get back on track,’’ Chura said. “We did a little bit of that in the second half against Horizon and had a meeting before tonight’s game (against Trevor Browne), and we were able to turn things around. We needed a win like this.’’

The Gators got a big game from junior Kyla Ferry, who scored four goals. Senior Abby Hubbard scored twice, and the team got one goal each from sophomore Elizabeth Warren, sophomore Jocelyn Rupp, senior Abby Castlen, sophomore Brynn Lebel and senior Nicole Hook.

“We have a ton of new players and we were able to get everybody involved tonight,’’ Chura said. “All of this is a process, and we need to get better every single outing, whether it is in practice or a game.’’

Thursday, December 7, 2017

ADs conference includes festive night at Xavier

Sr. Lynn Winsor has helped put Xavier Prep athletics on the map in Arizona and nationally as the school’s athletic director, both with the teams’ performances as well as her participation in national organizations that carry the banner of prep sports through education and the implementation of the latest available ideas and equipment.

She also has been president of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA), been a member of numerous committees and was a long-time member of the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Executive Board. And she is a charter member of the Arizona Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

Beginning Friday (Dec. 8) and running through Tuesday (Dec. 12), the NIAAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) will hold their 48th annual National Athletic Directors Conference at the Phoenix Convention Center in downtown Phoenix.

Winsor and Xavier will have a key role at the event, hosting a welcoming social gathering at Founders Hall on Friday beginning at 6 p.m. The convention will have an estimated 2,000 athletic directors, other officials and exhibitors and Winsor is expecting about 200 at the XCP event, which will have a Mexican heritage theme, complete with food and entertainment (Mariachis).

“We were thinking, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a welcoming event,’ as a thank-you to all the leadership of the NFHS, the NIAAA leadership, executives and committee chairs, board of directors and the athletic directors and administrators from Arizona,’’ said Winsor, who has been at Xavier for 44 years, most of those as AD.

Xavier will operate shuttles to and from the convention center, have student ambassadors as tour guides, pointing out landmarks in town and providing facts about the school, and the school’s Dads Club will assist. The XCP campus will be adorned with holiday lights that also will welcome attendees of the annual Christmas Dance at the school on Saturday night.

There also will be a golf tournament (Camelback Golf Club in Paradise Valley) and a Fun Run, as well as tickets for the Phoenix Suns-San Antonio Spurs game on Saturday night (Dec. 9).

The conference offers much more than an opportunity for socializing. Winsor has attended every conference since 1985, except for 2015, when Xavier beloved associate athletic director Sr. Nancy Perlick passed away.

“The conferences are where you learn to be an effective athletic administrator,’’ Winsor said. “I have things I have learned every year at national conference that I bring back to school to make Xavier’s athletic program even better.’’

There are many workshops, and leadership-training classes and outstanding general-session speakers.

Among subjects covered are sports liability, hazing/bullying, working with parents, multi-sport participation, social media and safety issues. And, believe it or not, the newest thing – the use of drones at athletic events.

Phoenix is joining a conference rotation that includes Tampa and Orlando, Nashville, Dallas, San Antonio, National Harbor, Md. (Washington D.C. area) and southern California.

Xavier hoops keeps foot on the accelerator

Xavier Prep’s basketball team won its fourth game in a row after playing in a tough “pre-season’’ tournament in Gilbert, speeding past visiting Glendale Mountain Ridge 90-32 at the Activity Center on Wednesday night (Dec. 6).

It was the second straight night that the Gators (6-3) played with a running clock in the fourth quarter due to a big lead. They also did it at Mesa Mountain View on Tuesday Night (Dec. 5).

Xavier had 14 players score, with senior forward Montana Oltrogge getting 18. She connected on three 3-pointers in the third quarter, shortly before she and the other four starters departed and sat out the rest of the game.

Other players in double figures were senior guard Payton Davis (13), junior point guard Leilani McIntosh (12) and senior post Katie Hassett (11). Xavier connected on nine 3-pointers for the game.

The Gators had the game under control in the opening quarter, outscoring the Mountain Lions 23-0. Hassett scored nine points during that stretch.

Sophomore Jordan Kress led the way for Mountain Ridge with 17 points, including four 3-point baskets.

The Gators’ next game is away from home on Monday (Dec. 11), but they don’t have far to go. Players and fans can paddle their canoes south across the Grand Canal to neighboring Phoenix Central. Tipoff is 7 p.m.

Gator soccer records 2nd straight shutout

Xavier Prep’s soccer team picked up its second win of the season on Wednesday night (Dec. 6), 5-0 over host Phoenix Horizon.

Junior Kyla Ferry led the Gators with a pair of goals and senior Abby Hubbard scored her third goal of the season. A pair of freshmen scored Xavier’s other two goals – Megan McGinty and Ololade Adebayo.

Ferry and Hubbard also had assists.

Goalkeepers Kinsey Ehmann and Katie Hessell combined to keep Horizon off the board.

Xavier returns home to Petznick Field on Thursday night to face Phoenix Trevor Browne. The contest begins at 6.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Gators' pressure too much for Mountain View

It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes a basketball coach would like to build a big enough lead to use the entire roster in a game.

That luxury was presented to Xavier Prep’s Jennifer Gillom on Tuesday night (Dec. 5) at Mesa Mountain View.

Thirteen of the 15 players listed on the Gators’ roster scored and XCP rolled to an 87-26 victory over the Toros. A running clock was used in the fourth quarter.

Xavier’s record improved to 5-3, and the Gators have a quick turnaround on Wednesday (Dec. 6), playing host to Glendale Mountain Ridge at the Activity Center. Tipoff is 7 p.m.

Xavier scored the first nine points of the game before Mountain View (4-4) called a timeout. Shortly thereafter, the Toros would score their only points of the first quarter, and by the start of the second, Xavier had a 29-2 lead.

The Gators stuck to their pattern of recent games by putting pressure on the Mountain View guards, and the Toros could not handle it.

Senior forward Montana Oltrogge took over for the Gators in the second quarter, scoring 13 of her game-high 21 points, including a pair of 3-point baskets.

Xavier outscored the Toros 16-2 over the first 3:43 of the third quarter, leaving no doubt in regard to the game’s outcome.

From that point on, Gillom was able to give her reserves some playing time.

Junior point guard Leilani McIntosh scored 15 points, including a 3-pointer, and junior wing player Addison Putnam scored 11, including a 3-pointer.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Gators' golf program honored by

For the second straight year, Xavier Prep’s golf program has been honored with coaching and player selections by the news outlet.

XCP athletic director and co-head coach Sr. Lynn Winsor and associate athletic director Tui Selvaratnam were named Co-Head Coaches of the Year after earning the designation a year ago. Xavier won its seventh straight Division I team title and 35th overall this fall.

And two-time state medalist Ashley Menne was named as a finalist for Player of the Year along with seven others. Menne, a sophomore, was Player of the Year as a freshman last season.

Other candidates are Jenny Bae of Chandler Hamilton, Izzy Cantwell of Cave Creek Cactus Shadows, Hannah May of Phoenix Arcadia, Michelle Nguyen of Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, Alexandra Quihuis of Tucson Salpointe Catholic, Toni St. John of Hamilton and Kelly Su of Scottsdale Chaparral.

Award winners will be honored by azcentral at a program in June 2018. Male and female athletes from all sports will take part in the event.

In addition, freshman Lauren Garcia was named an Honorable Mention selection. She finished seventh in the state tournament that was held in Tucson this fall.

“I am so proud of our entire team and it’s always wonderful when our golf team members receive recognition,’’ Winsor said. “All five of our Xavier entrants at state played well and the competition was excellent.

“To mb named by azcentral as a possible Player of the Year (Menne) and an Honorable Mention (Garcia) is truly an honor and the coaches and team are very proud of them.’’

Said Selvaratnam: “Coaching the 2017 team alongside Sister Lynn was a wonderful experience. Having 14 girls on the team and watching how each and every one supported and encouraged each other was great to see.’’

Xavier Prep soccer really likes those 2-0 scores

If you’re a fan of Xavier Prep soccer, you’ve just got to like those 2-0 scores.

Although there were nearly 10 months in between, Xavier posted back-to-back 2-0 victories.

First was the 6A Conference championship match against Phoenix Desert Vista on Feb. 11, and Xavier triumphed 2-0.

Then on Monday night (Dec. 4), the Gators began the 2017-18 season with a 2-0 victory over visiting Gilbert High at Petznick Field.

Abby Hubbard scored both Xavier goals in the first half, with fellow senior Mady Chait providing the assists. From there, it was up to the defense to keep the Tigers away from the net.

“We were happy with the game, the outcome, especially since we have a bunch of new people,’’ said Xavier coach Barb Chura.

“The first half was kind of slow, but we started to play better toward the end of the first half. We got two good goals, but we left too many other goals on the table. We didn’t finish plays like we could have, shooting the ball high or wide. And when you don’t finish, you usually allow your opponent to stay in the game. We know this was our first game and it leaves a lot for us to work on.’’

Chura applauded Hubbard and Chait for their efforts and the leadership they showed. Also receiving praise were senior defender Nicole Hook and sophomore defender Jocelyn Rupp.

Hook also helped work the ball on the offensive side, but on defense, Chura said, “she is so good. Jocelyn played next to her (Hook is in the middle) . They are playing with confidence.’’

Senior Kinsey Ehmann had a good game in goal.

Among the younger players, one who had a promising effort was freshman Ololade Adebayo, a midfielder who showed good quickness and agility in trying to keep the middle of the field clean and passing the ball to the forwards.

Chura said Adebayo’s experience is limited, but says she thinks Adebayo could develop into a well-rounded player.

Xavier will play on the road for the first time on Wednesday (Dec. 6) at Phoenix Horizon. The Gators return home on Thursday (Dec. 7) with a contest against Phoenix Trevor Browne. Both have 6 p.m. starts.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

XCP's Wagner is Player of Year nominee in volleyball

The volleyball season might be done, but the newly minted 6A Conference champion Xavier Prep Gators are not.

Senior outside hitter Lanie Wagner, who helped the Gators defeat Tempe Corona del Sol for the state title, is one of eight nominees for’s Volleyball Player of the Year. The elite eight were announced on Thursday (Nov. 30).

Wagner had 537 kills on the season, most for 6A players, and averaged 4.5 kills per set. She has signed a letter of intent to attend school and play for the University of Georgia.

The other nominees are Kamaile Haipo of Mesa Skyline, Alexis Keith of Gilbert Perry, Gabby Leo of Phoenix Mountain Pointe, Peyton Lewis of Tucson Salpointe Catholic, Brooke Nuneviller of Corona del Sol, Mary Shroll of Tempe Prep and McKenzie Wise of Peoria Sunrise Mountain.

Winner of the award will be announced in June at a ceremony honoring athletes from all sports.

Trademark defense keys victory in home hoops opener

Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom walked into the locker room before her team’s game against Mesa Skyline on Friday night (Dec. 1).

She had seen enough of her players as an assistant coach the last few years to get a good sense of how things might turn out.

“They (players) were asking questions, were very focused. I knew they were going to have a decent game,’’ she said.

The Gators didn’t disappoint, rolling to an easy 73-29 victory over the Coyotes in Xavier’s first home game of the season at the Activity Center. Because of the big lead, the game was played with a running clock in the fourth quarter.

Xavier raised its record to 4-3, while Skyline fell to 1-4. Xavier’s junior-varsity and freshman teams also began their home seasons with big wins.

Gillom knows that team chemistry can ebb and flow during the season, but she hopes it will be more flow for the Gators.

“Our team chemistry is clicking right now,’’ she said.

The Gators appear to apply full-court pressure in the early part of games with the theory that it will help create turnovers and build a lead that will allow Gillom more flexibility with her lineup.

It happened against Skyline, when the Gators outscored their opponent 31-5 in the first quarter. In the second and third quarters, it was more of the same.

“It keeps us in shape, keeps our intensity going,’’ Gillom said.

Would this plan create a tendency for opponents to know what to expect early in the game?

“They might expect it, but they still will have to defeat it,’’ Gillom said.

With the contest well in hand, Gillom got a chance to extend playing time for some of her reserves.

“I wanted to get them some time, more experience because we are going to need them,’’ Gillom said.

Ten players scored against Skyline, led by 19 points from senior inside player Katie Hassett.

Juniors Addison Putnam and Paris Rasheed-Moore were next with 14 points each. Putnam hit three 3-point baskets in the first half. Rasheed-Moore got many of her points from steals or steals and passes from teammates after their steals.

Xavier will go back out on the road on Tuesday (Dec. 5) against Mesa Mountain View and return home on Wednesday (Dec. 6) against Glendale Mountain Ridge. Both games begin at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Three seniors have essential soccer roles

Among the reasons why Xavier Prep is expected to challenge for a second straight soccer title is the play of three seniors – forward Abby Hubbard, midfielder Mady Chait and defender Nicole Hook.

The XCP Files takes a closer look at the trio and how they believe they fit in with the team.

Bringing the energy

Hubbard has been playing soccer for a long time and it’s hard to believe sometimes that she is in her last year at XCP and ready to move on to play for Colorado College.

“We definitely have a title to protect,’’ she said. “I’ve only one it once and I want to win it as many times as I can.’’

To Hubbard, there is no better game than the one she plays.

“Soccer is the best game in the world,’’ she said. “It has been special for me, helping me make friends. It’s such a beautiful sport to play and watch. I have so much respect for this program. I am excited to be a senior.’’

Asked how she makes an impact for her team at left forward, Hubbard said, “I bring a lot of energy right from the (opening) whistle. I really get hyped for a game. We have good team bonding. Coach (Barb Chura) is a firm believer in that, both on and off the field.’’

Hubbard is constantly on the move.

“I love to run at a player (opponent) and get a shot off,’’ she said. “And I like setting up my teammates when I can, creating “corners’ (kicks). Or I might be called on to drop off and slide over towards the middle to help there.’’

More than just the shoes

It’s hard to miss Chait as she moves up and down the field.

She wears bright pink shoes and often has socks to match.

“If I find ones I like, it’s more about the fit than the color, though,’’ Chait said.

She is a center mid (fielder) and says her job “is to keep the game flowing with good passes and make sure we maintain good field position.’’

But every now and then, she is counted on to put the ball in the net. She did just that by scoring the Gators’ first goal in a 2-0 win over Phoenix Desert Vista for the 6A state championship last season (junior Kyla Ferry scored the other).

Chait said the Gators can get a good idea from what to expect from an opponent in the first 15 minutes of the match.

“Teams know we’re going to be good,’’ she said. “We think we are pretty versatile. Some people might not think we’re much of a scoring team, but we can score when we need to. It depends on the year, I guess. We were a good scoring team a few years ago and now we rely a lot on defense. Whatever works for us.’’

Enforcer says “stay away’’ from goal

Hook might be the strongest player on the team, and that is why she is stationed near the front of the goal and does whatever she can to keep opponents from getting a clear shot against Xavier senior goalkeeper Kinsey Ehmann.

“The physical part of the game can be tough, but it’s also a lot of fun,’’ Hook said. “We play some teams that are very good and very physical, like (Chandler) Hamilton and Desert Vista.’’

Like most of her Xavier teammates, Hook played club ball where she attempted to stay in condition through running and weight training.

Hook said that for the majority of her first two years at Xavier, she played forward.

“I wasn’t what I would call a great attacker, so they put me on defense for my junior year and I like that a lot better,’’ she said.

Playing defense near the goal involves letting your teammates know where their opponents are going and talking with the keeper.

“It’s important to be vocal, be able to communicate,’’ Hook said.

So another season begins on Monday (Dec. 4) with a 6 p.m. home match against Gilbert High at Petznick Field. Will it help the Gators win another championship? Hubbard, Chait and Hook will be right there in the middle of the action, doing their part.

Gators win, come home "at the right time for us''

Xavier Prep basketball fans should be excited to watch their favorite team play its first home game of the season against Mesa Skyline at 7 p.m. on Friday (Dec. 1).

But they probably will not be as pumped up as the coaching staff and players themselves.

“We need one (home game). It’s coming at the right time for us,’’ said Gators coach Jennifer Gillom.

Her sentiments come after a grueling first week of the season that saw the team go 2-3 in the (Gilbert) Highland Thanksgiving tournament and win the first game of the “regular’’ season, a 64-49 triumph on the road over Phoenix Mountain Pointe on Tuesday night (Nov. 28).

“Overall, we are happy. The most important thing is that we played well at both ends of the floor,’’ Gillom said. “That said, we are still not satisfied with the overall consistency of our game. That has to get better.’’

The Gators’ defense put pressure on Mountain Pointe from the opening tip, forcing several turnovers that helped to produce an eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter was highlighted by a rare 4-point play from senior guard Payton Davis.

She hit a 3-pointer to begin the quarter, and a few minutes later drilled a 3-pointer from along the baseline, was fouled and converted the free throw for the 4-pointer.

Xavier outscored the Pride 10-0 to begin the third period, but Mountain Pointe went on an 11-4 run to remain within range.

In the fourth, the Gators increased their lead to 21, but a pair of 3-pointers by the Pride in the final moments soothed some of their wounds.

Getting a big lead on a few occasions and watching it shrink was not what Gillom wanted to see.

“Once we get a big lead like that, we have to keep ‘em down. We can’t let them get back into it,’’ she said.

Senior forward Montana Oltrogge scored 20 points, including two 3-pointers, to lead the Gators. Junior point guard Leilani McIntosh found a good pace and played perhaps her best overall game of the season with 15 points. Junior Addison Putnam had 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. And senior forward Katie Hassett continued to work hard under the basket. She was scoreless in the first half but came back with six points in the second half, along with aggressive rebounding and defense.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Soccer season nears for defending champ Gators

By the time Xavier Prep begins its 2017-18 soccer season on Dec. 4, the school’s basketball team already will have played seven games.

But that’s OK. Good things are worth waiting for.

The defending state champion Gators open up at home against Gilbert High.

Xavier coach Barb Chura will be interested to see how things turn out after she and assistant coach Rafael Rios have spent nearly a month mixing and matching players in practice, deciding on who is going to play where.

Xavier posted a 15-1-3 record last season. The Gators’ lone loss was not in Arizona, but against a team from the Los Angeles area in the annual Excalibur tournament in southern California, which runs between Christmas and New Year’s.

“We are getting better each day, but it’s going to take some time to figure out what our lineup is going to be,’’ Chura said.

Some players who thought they would play a certain position might find themselves playing in another spot if they are needed there.

“We have some athletes who are capable of doing that,’’ Chura said.

Xavier lost five key seniors to graduation – midfielder Madie Amavilah, midfielder Natalie Duque, forward/midfielder Quiqui Hita, fullback Elena Zurek and fullback Katie Moore.

Chura said the Gators will be fine up front and at midfield, so one of the main objectives is to develop a strong defensive presence. Senior fullback Nicole Hook is the anchor in front of senior goalkeeper Kinsey Ehmann, but will need help when opponents apply pressure. Ehmann recently won the Wendy’s Heisman award for Arizona.

Because of their title, a 2-0 win over Phoenix Desert Vista, the Gators will have a target on their backs.

“It’s always a challenge for us, and the fact that we won it makes it even more so this year,’’ Chura said.

Among the players expected to have key roles for Xavier are senior midfielder/forward Mady Chait and junior forward Kyla Ferry. Each scored a goal in the state championship game.

Other key players are Ehmann, Hook, senior forward Abby Hubbard and sophomore fullbacks Elizabeth Warren and Megan Zacher.

The top teams joining Xavier in the fight for the title trophy should be Desert Vista, Gilbert Perry, Chandler Hamilton and Phoenix Pinnacle.


00 – Ella Eberhardt/Fr., GK; 0 – Katie Hessel/Sr., GK; 1 – Kinsey Ehmann/Sr., GK; 2 – Megan McGinty/Fr., F; 3 – Abby Hubbard/Sr., F; 4 – Mady Chait/Sr., MF/F; 5 – Camila Grifol/Fr., D; 6 – Brynn Lebel/So., MF/F; 7 – Jocelyn Rupp/So., MF/D; 8 – Elizabeth Warren/So., FB; 9 – Ololade Adebayo/Fr., MF; 10 – Kyla Ferry/Jr., F/MF; 11 – Abby Ditmer/So., FB; 12 – Katie McGee/Jr., D; 13 – Izzy Culver-Witt/Jr., F; 15 – Taylor Brown/So., MF; 16 – Jessie Simmons/Sr., F; 17 – Karla Alvarado-Lopez/Jr., MF; 18 – Abby Castlen/Sr., F; 19 – Maddy Skrovan/So., D; 20 – Caroline Hink/So., D; 21 – Megan Zacher/So., FB; 22 – Megan Onofrei/So., D; 25 – Nicole Hook/Sr., FB.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Big learning curve for Xavier basketball

Xavier Prep’s basketball rollercoaster took quite a few twists and turns on Saturday (Nov. 25), but the Gators did not enjoy the ride.

The Gators faced host Gilbert Highland in the final day of play in the Highland Lady Hawk Thanksgiving Classic. The teams were tied at 43 entering the fourth quarter, but Xavier was outscored 8-0 down the stretch and dropped a 61-55 decision.

Xavier finished 2-3 in the tournament and will begin its regular season on Tuesday (Nov. 28) with a road game in Ahwatukee against Phoenix Mountain Pointe. The Gators will have their home opener on Friday (Dec. 1) against Mesa Skyline.

According to Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom, there wasn’t much to like about her team’s effort.

“We can’t blame anyone but ourselves,’’ she said.

The Gators also could blame some questionable calls by the officials (they were whistled for 10 more fouls than Highland), but Gillom did not want to go down that road.

“The team has to learn to play through all of that,’’ she said. “There are going to be times when that happens, particularly on the road. We have to be able to step up in the big games. That is why we wanted to come to this tournament with all of its strong competition.’’

The learning and maturation process “is going to be something that takes time,’’ she said. “At this point, it isn’t so much about winning as it is about teaching.  We are trying to get there, but not yet. You can see it on the players’ faces that they are not happy.’’

The team has yet to get consistent leadership from some of its more experienced players, Gillom said.

“We need it, particularly in pressure situations,’’ she said.

Xavier had a 10-6 lead midway through the first quarter. The Gators perhaps could have put more distance between themselves and the Hawks, but did not.

The contest continued to go back and forth in the second and third, and long-time Highland coach Miner Webster received a technical foul with two seconds left in the third. Xavier could convert only one of two free throws.

In the decisive fourth, Xavier held a 55-53 lead with about 3 ½ minutes left, thanks to a three-point basket by Addie Putnam. Those would be the last points for the Gators as Highland made six of eight free throws in the final 2:23.

Forward Montana Oltrogge led Xavier with 15 points. Guard Paris Rasheed-Moore had 14 points and forward Katie Hassett had another strong game inside with 10 points.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Now that's more like it: Gators get two tourney wins

Xavier Prep’s basketball players needn’t have worried about how many calories they were taking in on Thanksgiving.

Because the Gators burned every one of them and then some on Friday (Nov. 24) in the (Gilbert) Highland holiday tournament.

Xavier began the day by routing Tucson Flowing Wells 88-28 and came back in the afternoon to roll past Phoenix Horizon 71-43. Both games were at Gilbert Mesquite.

The Gators, now with a 2-2 record, will play their final tournament game on Saturday (Nov. 25), this time at Highland. They will face Highland at noon.

Considering the way Xavier struggled in its first two tourney games, coach Jennifer Gillom was borderline ecstatic about Friday'’s turn of events.

“The difference for us was that we played hard at both ends of the court,’’ she said. “The girls are understanding how you win games, playing with intensity. I am really happy with what we’re doing.’’

The Gators worked the ball around well on offense, and that was ignited by tough, pressurized play on defense in both games.

On offense, Gillom said the Gators took care of the ball and had only seven turnovers against Horizon.

Xavier had 11 players score in its win over Flowing Wells. Senior forward Montana Oltrogge scored 28 points, 25 in the first half, and probably could have had at least 40. Senior forward Katie Hassett had 11 points and had a strong presence under the basket.

Hassett was even better in the second game. She scored six points and outhustled and outmuscled Horizon’s primary post player. Hassett kept her feet on the floor most of the way and kept a close watch on her opponent when they attempted to cut through the paint.

Oltrogge again was atop the scoring leaders with 23 points against Horizon, including three 3-point baskets. Junior Paris Rasheed-Moore had her best all-around game of the young season with strong defensive pressure that led to layups by her teammates, and 14 points on offense. Junior point guard Leilani McIntosh had 10.

“Katie did all the little things you need to do that sometimes might go unnoticed,’’ Gillom said. “And Paris was the real thing, too. Her presence really helped us.’’

After Saturday’s game, the Gators begin the “real’’ part of their schedule (power-points games) with a road contest at Phoenix Mountain Pointe in Ahwatukee. Xavier’s first home game of the season will be Dec. 1 against Mesa Skyline.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

No win, but XCP basketball plays much better

The final result was not what Jennifer Gillom wanted. But compared to what occurred one night earlier, she was very encouraged by her Xavier Prep basketball team’s effort in Tuesday night’s (Nov. 21) second round of the (Gilbert) Highland Thanksgiving tournament.

The Gators were outplayed in every way, shape and form by Tucson Pueblo on Monday night (Nov. 20). They came back to face host Gilbert Mesquite on Tuesday night. It would be a daunting  task because Mesquite, the defending 5A Conference champion, had put 117 points on the board against Tucson Flowing Wells in the first round.

Xavier matched Mesquite stride for stride for the most part, even leading at halftime (by two) but the talented Mesquite team regained its composure in the second half and went on to win 60-52.

The Gators were aggressive from the start at both ends of the floor. They moved the ball around, rebounded with more authority and more importantly did not have the blank look on their faces that they had in the opener.

“I think that after what happened on Monday, people expected them (Mesquite) to come in and just run us off the court,’’ Gillom said. “Mesquite did not outhustle us and they did not outplay us. For us to hold a good team like that (to 60) after they got 117 the night before was a big improvement.

“We learned from yesterday (Monday). We learned about discipline and trusting one another. They came back and did what I asked them to do. We had a few little defensive mistakes, but it was a good effort. I think that overall, this will help us down the road.’’

Xavier trailed by six at the end of the first quarter but came back to hold Mesquite to nine in the second and led 30-28 at the half.

Unfortunately for the Gators, the intermission interrupted their momentum.

“Yes, I was thinking that if we had about four more minutes, we might have been farther ahead with the way we were playing,’’ Gillom said.

Mesquite was led by senior star point guard Shaylee Gonzales. But the two-time All-Arizona player and Brigham Young signee limped off the court in the closing moments of the third quarter and did not return. The injury did not appear to be too serious and her mother, Mesquite coach Candace Gonzales, likely kept her out the rest of the way as a precautionary measure.

Senior forward Montana Oltrogge had another solid game for the Gators. She led the team with 21 points and was much more aggressive in the rebounding department. Junior wing Addison Putnam scored 11, including three 3-pointers, and junior point guard Leilani McIntosh scored 10.

After a two-day break, Xavier returns to tournament play on Friday (Nov. 24) at Mesquite with a contest against Flowing Wells. Tip-off is at noon. The Gators are expected to play a second game later that day (time TBA) and one more on Saturday (Nov. 25). Saturday’s games will be at Highland.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Gators fall flat in basketball opener

Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom was looking forward to playing in the (Gilbert) Highland “preseason’’ tournament because of the quality of competition – three defending state champions are entered.

She wanted to see how her Gators would fare.

And now, after the first game is over? Maybe not so much. Particularly after the way Xavier played in Monday night’s (Nov. 20) season opener against Tucson Pueblo at Gilbert Mesquite.

Xavier jumped to an 11-0 lead in the first quarter, but that quickly evaporated. Simply put, the Gators were outplayed in every phase of the game and Pueblo, a 4A Conference quarterfinalist a year ago, earned a 72-65 victory.

The road doesn’t get any easier on Tuesday (Nov. 21). Xavier will face Mesquite at 5:30 p.m. Mesquite is the defending 5A champion and routed Tucson Flowing Wells 117-12 in its tourney opener.

Asked what about the performance frustrated her the most, Gillom said, “All of it. Pueblo played smarter, outrebounded us, they outran us . . . after all of the running we’ve been doing (in practice) . . .

“Our defense is more mature than that. Overall, we have to learn to play consistently for all four quarters. We definitely have a lot to work on.’’

Pueblo also was quicker and seemed more athletic. The Warriors stepped into the passing lanes to take the ball away. They did pretty much whatever they wanted.

When Xavier had the ball, its players did a lot of standing around. When the ballhandler would come across the half-court line and get some defensive pressure from Pueblo, there often would be no one to throw to because teammates were not coming to get the ball.

Four of the Gators’ five starters scored in double figures, but very few seemed to have much of an impact.

Senior forward Montana Oltrogge scored 18 points, followed by junior wing Addison Putnam (13, including three 3-pointers), senior forward Katie Hassett and junior point guard Leilani McIntosh (10 each).