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, 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.