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

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.

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