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.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Gators earn automatic spot in state hoops

One good thing leads to another.
The Xavier Prep basketball team finished its regular season with an 84-69 victory over visiting Catholic rival Phoenix St. Mary’s on Tuesday night (Feb. 7).
That gave the Gators 20 wins (20-6), the first time they have reached that level since the 2012-13 season, when they finished 21-10.
The most important aspect was that they secured one of eight automatic spots in the upcoming 6A Conference state tournament. Xavier was seventh in the Arizona Interscholastic Association rankings entering Tuesday night’s game.
Xavier is expected to host a first-round game.
The top eight (in no particular order) are Xavier, Chandler, Chandler Hamilton, Goodyear Millennium, Surprise Valley Vista, Gilbert, Gilbert Highland and Tucson High.
The rest of the field beyond the original eight will be determined by play-in games to be held on Thursday (Feb. 9). Official brackets will be announced by the AIA on Sunday (Feb. 12).
Play-in games are (seedings in parentheses) Anthem Boulder Creek (24) at Phoenix Desert Vista (9), Mesa Dobson (17) at Mesa Red Mountain (16), Phoenix Pinnacle (18) at Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (15), Chandler Basha (21) at Gilbert Perry (12), Tucson  Rincon/University (22) at Phoenix Horizon (11), Mesa (20) at Phoenix North (13), Avondale Westview (19) at Scottsdale Desert Mountain (14), Laveen Cesar Chavez (23) at Phoenix Mountain Pointe (10).
Xavier coach Stephen Moss said the win over St. Mary’s (11-16 in 4A Conference) was the Gators’ best home game of the year.
“Twenty wins is a really nice benchmark. It’s been awhile since the program has done that,’’ Moss said. “I think this should give us some momentum going into the playoffs.’’
It also was Senior Night honoring players, team managers and the spirit line.
The Gators’ two seniors, guards M.J. Machen and Brittany Robinson, made important contributions. Machen hit three 3-pointers and finished with 9 points, and Robinson returned from some concussion symptoms to connect for a 3-pointer and finished with 4 points.
“I can’t say enough about Brittany,’’ Moss said. “She has been here four years and at one point was the only one playing club ball. Now, most of all the girls are playing. Brittany and M.J. give us long-range threats.’’
Once again, the Gators had scoring balance and Moss hopes that will carry over into the tournament.
Sophomore guards Paris Moore and Leilani McIntosh led the way with 19 and 18 points, respectively. Junior forwards Katie Hassett and Montana Oltrogge had 17 and 12, respectively.
Xavier made eight 3-pointers on the night.
Senior post player Joyce Jordan had a fine game for St. Mary’s, scoring 31 points, and senior guard Daisy Altamirano had 21.

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