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.