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.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Hoops semi setback ends Gator JV's summer

Xavier’s junior-varsity Gators gave it a good shot, but came up short on Monday (June 26) in the semifinals of the JV bracket in the Thunderbird (High) basketball summer league.
Xavier, which had an opening-round win over Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor on Sunday (June 25), could not develop enough offense against Phoenix Pinnacle in a 44-29 setback. Pinnacle went on to meet Phoenix St. Mary’s for the JV title later Monday night.
The Gators finished with a respectable 6-3 record in summer play.

Short-handed Gators fall in hoops tourney

A different day, a different opponent and a different result for the Xavier Prep basketball team.
The Gators, who couldn’t do anything wrong against Scottsdale Saguaro for a big win on Saturday (June 24) in the Thunderbird (High) Summer League tournament, could do very little right on Sunday (June 25) in a quarterfinal game against Phoenix Arcadia.
Arcadia rode the steady hand of guard Bryce Nixon, a University of Arizona commitment, and used its experience from a 26-3 finish last season to dismantle Xavier, 56-40.
Xavier, missing four starters (three club-ball commitments and one injury rehab) finished its summer schedule at 7-2. The Gators had won seven straight entering Sunday’s play.
“We missed our senior leadership, that’s for sure,’’ said coach Jennifer Gillom, referring to inside players Montana Oltrogge, Katie Hassett and Alana Kelley.
“We (coaches) figured that (the team) would either come out and play lights out or might have some difficulty with Arcadia’s experience. They are a good team.’’
Xavier hung with the Titans early in the contest, holding an 18-16 lead, but Arcadia outscored the Gators 17-0 over the remaining minutes of the first half for a 33-18 lead at the break.
The second half was fairly even, with Arcadia doing just enough to maintain its comfortable lead.
“We tried to pressure them (Arcadia) like we did against Saguaro, but they don’t really crack under pressure,’’ Gillom said. “All of our girls fought until the end and that’s all I can ask. We could have ended up losing by 30, but they played as hard as they could. We kind of needed a tough game like this. I am not disappointed at all. I am extremely proud of the girls.’’
The Xavier player most affected by the lineup change was junior Paris Moore, who starts on the wing and plays the point on occasion. Gillom put her in the post to try to take advantage of her athleticism, but the physical play of the Arcadia players underneath the basket took its toll.
Moore was gassed by the end, bending over and putting her hands on her knees while trying to catch her breath.
“She was kind of skinny in there, but to her credit, she did what she could to keep it going for us,’’ Gillom said.
Most of the players on the Xavier roster will return to their club teams before Xavier practices resume in August. Gillom said the school’s two gymnasiums are expected to have their floors resurfaced in July, part of a sprucing-up project for the entire campus.
Xavier’s team in the league’s junior-varsity bracket earned a 37-23 victory over Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor on Sunday and will meet Phoenix Pinnacle in a semifinal game on Monday (June 26) at 1 p.m. in Thunderbird’s main gym. The JV bracket championship game is at 7 p.m., with the varsity title contest beginning at 9 p.m.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Press powers Gators in summer hoops

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Judging from Xavier Prep’s performances in the (Phoenix) Thunderbird summer basketball league, some people might say that engraving the Gators’ name on the 6A state championship trophy is but a formality.
But there is a long, long way to go before that opportunity presents itself. If it presents itself.
To be sure, Xavier looks like one of the top teams in the state, and even with two starters missing and a third in a limited role on Saturday (June 24), looked the part of a contender.
Xavier showed its depth and unleashed a blistering full-court press that decided the game even before halftime with a 69-20 victory over Scottsdale Saguaro.
The Gators, 7-1 in summer league play, move on to Sunday’s (June 25) quarterfinals with a game against the Phoenix Arcadia “A’’ team. Tipoff is 6 p.m. The XCP junior-varsity team (5-2) will have a playoff game in the JV bracket on Sunday at 1 p.m. against Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.
Saguaro’s Sabercats didn’t really know what hit them on Saturday. They were down by 16 points before scoring their first points with 16:23 left in the first half. Xavier led 37-7 at the half. The Xavier reserves were not as quick but still effective in the second half and the team continued to maintain its comfortable advantage.
Xavier coach Jen Gillom doesn’t want her players getting too comfortable.
“We want to build the lead,’’ she said. “There might be a tendency to let up a little after that, but we don’t want our players to lose their focus.
“We will be playing a better team on Sunday and we need to keep that same intensity, do another good job.’’
Practicing that style of defense requires a conscious effort, but done enough, “It can be instinct for them and that’s what we are doing now.’’
A team rarely can maintain that type of defensive pace unless it has good speed, and the Gators appear to have plenty of it.
“The speed of our team is incredible,’’ Gillom said. “We can really put pressure on the other team.’’
Gillom was missing three starters on Saturday and a fourth will be added on Sunday. Junior point guard Leilani McIntosh and senior forward Katie Hassett had club-team commitments and senior forward Alana Kelley continues to allow her knee to recover after surgery.
Senior forward Montana Oltrogge played Saturday, but will be sidelined due to club ball on Sunday and Monday, if Xavier advances.
A bright spot on Saturday was the play of sophomore wing player Elysia Fleetwood. She did not play basketball a year but showed a great deal of promise in track and field. She decided to try basketball this year, can run the floor, has quick moves and a good shot and appears to have good court sense.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Benson helps U.S. volleyball advance

The Pan American Cup for volleyball has a distinct Xavier Prep presence.
Xavier product Amanda Benson, also a former star at the University of Oregon, had an excellent match against Argentina on Wednesday (June 21) as the U.S. National Team won Pool A with a 27-25, 25-14, 25-23 sweep in Canete, Peru.
The Americans are now 5-0, bypass Friday’s (June 23) quarterfinals and will play a semifinal match on Saturday (June 24). The U.S. team has defeated Venezuela, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Argentina to this point.
Benson, a 5-foot-7 libero, had nine digs against Argentina along with nine excellent receptions out of 16 total chances.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Gators ready for summer hoops playoffs

Xavier Prep’s basketball team, which began the Thunderbird (High) Summer League with a loss and then reeled off six straight wins, is ready to go when the league playoffs get under way on Saturday (June 24).
Xavier will open play against Scottsdale Saguaro at 11 a.m. on Saturday in the school’s main gym. If the Gators win, they would play the Phoenix Arcadia “A’’ team on Sunday (June 25) at 6 p.m. in the main gym.
Semifinals and finals are on Monday (June 26) at 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.
The Gators and coach Jen Gillom will face a big challenge in the playoffs. A handful of the team’s top players will be absent due to club-team commitments.
Gillom is not as worried as one might think.
She used many of her reserves in a 64-36 win over the Thunderbird Orange team in the last regular game.
“They did a pretty good job,’’ she said. “They know they will be counted on to do more, so they will have to step up. And it is good to give them that type of experience.’’

Basketball players have more bounce to the ounce

Bounce, bounce bounce . . .
It is summer, but Xavier Prep’s McGrath Gymnasium is anything but quiet.
The gym has been buzzing with activity each afternoon this week with the school’s annual basketball camp from 2-4 p.m.
The camp is led by Gators coach Jen Gillom along with junior-varsity coach Patrick Mangosing and freshman coach Laura Forbes. About nine of Gillom’s returning varsity players are assisting with the drills.
“Having the varsity players here to interact with the younger ones is helpful,’’ Gillom said.
There are about two dozen players involved, ranging from grades 5 through 9. Seven campers will be freshmen this fall and will have the opportunity to find the level that fits them best.
“They will know more about what to expect when the tryouts begin,’’ Gillom said.
There are a number of fun activities – including dribbling relays and shooting competition. Then the athletes move on to stations that have them concentrating on ball-handling, layups and, yes, even post moves.
About half the girls have been on club teams and all are taking an aggressive approach.
“I didn’t really expect that at first, but it is a good thing,’’ Gillom said. “It doesn’t seem to matter how big they are, they are all in there fighting for the ball.’’