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.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Xavier confident entering new hoops season

Xavier Prep’s basketball season begins on Nov. 20, and new head coach Jennifer Gillom is setting the bar high for her team coming out of the gate.

“That is what you should do. You have to be confident,’’ she said.

The Gators will be playing five games over four days (Nov. 20, 21, 24 and 25) at the (Gilbert) Highland Lady Hawk Thanksgiving Classic at Highland and Gilbert Mesquite. Xavier’s first three games will be at Mesquite.

The tournament will feature 14 teams and without a doubt will have the strongest field of any early season event in the state.

It will have the defending state champions in the 6A Conference (Surprise Valley Vista), 5A (Mesquite) and 4A (Chandler Seton Catholic). It will have 6A semifinalist Gilbert High, 6A quarterfinalists Highland and Phoenix Horizon, 5A semifinalist Scottsdale Chaparral and 4A quarterfinalist Tucson Pueblo.

Pueblo will join Xavier in Pool D, along with Mesquite and Tucson Flowing Wells. Xavier will face Pueblo in its tourney opener on Nov. 20 at 5:30 p.m.

Other teams in addition to 6A first-rounder Xavier are Scottsdale Desert Mountain, Avondale Westview, Mesa Desert Ridge and Gilbert Leading Edge Academy. Desert Mountain's roster lists senior forward Alana Kelley, who transferred from Xavier after last season.

Xavier varsity basketball coach Jennifer Gillom.
Gillom, who played for the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and coached in the league, was Xavier coach from 2006-11 and posted a 97-32 record.
“We expect to win it,’’ she said boldly. “It’s a tough tournament. We had some close losses last year to some of the teams in the tournament. We want to be able to set the tone.’’

Gillom, an assistant varsity coach the last few seasons, has been putting the Gators through their paces in the first few weeks of preseason practice.

“I have been impressed,’’ she said. “We (coaches) have thrown a lot at them these first two weeks, and they are soaking a lot of it in. They understand that we are also preparing many of them for the next level (college). It’s not about coming in and going through the motions like some players do. These girls are here to work.

“It’s also more about just trying to catch the ball and score. It’s many other things. We are emphasizing the little things, too.

“We are definitely not a one-player team. We give it the top effort, whether it’s in practice or a game. We are well-balanced and we have depth. Whatever we do with the lineup, we won’t skip a beat.’’

Staying healthy also is of the utmost importance. The team has struggled with injuries the last two or three seasons. If they can avoid that, they could wind up being in the state championship conversation.

The Gators’ top two players are senior forward Montana Oltrogge and junior point guard Leilani McIntosh.

Oltrogge, slowed by knee injuries in her early years at Xavier, averaged 15.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and shot 50 percent from the floor and 71.8 percent from the line. She recently signed a national letter of intent with Idaho State.

McIntosh is one of the top point players in the state. She continues to refine and expand her playing style and adds a level of speed that permeates the rest of the roster. McIntosh averaged 12.6 points, 2.3 assists, 3 steals and shot 43 percent from the floor a year ago.

Senior post-forward Katie Hassett offers a strong complement to Oltrogge. Hassett averaged 7.6 points a game and likely will be counted on to at least reach double figures this time around. She also averaged 5.9 rebounds and shot 44 percent from the floor.

McIntosh also is tough defensively and will be joined by fellow junior Paris Rasheed-Moore, who will use the same speed that allowed her to be a success in track to put pressure on opponents in the backcourt and on the wings. Rasheed-Moore averaged 2.7 steals, 8.2 points, 5 rebounds and 2.1 assists.

Xavier has had some good 3-point shooters in the past, but lost one to graduation in Brittany Robinson, who connected on 20 of the long shots last season. That will mean more opportunities for junior Addie Putnam (15) and McIntosh (14).

Xavier Prep basketball 2017-18

Head coach – Jennifer Gillom. Assistants – Patrick Mangosing, Rikki Mulloy.

Roster – Cara Coffman (Jr.), Telisa Colelay (Jr.), Payton Davis (Sr.), Elysia Fleetwood (So.), Katie Hassett (Sr.), Truly Helton (Jr.), Mary Long (Sr.), Leilani McIntosh (Jr.), Bianca Nava (Jr.), Montana Oltrogge (Sr.), Addie Putnam (Jr.), Paris Rasheed-Moore (Jr.), Lisset Salcedo (Jr.), Isabel Wirth (Sr.).

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