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 21, 2017

Gators fall flat in basketball opener

Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom was looking forward to playing in the (Gilbert) Highland “preseason’’ tournament because of the quality of competition – three defending state champions are entered.

She wanted to see how her Gators would fare.

And now, after the first game is over? Maybe not so much. Particularly after the way Xavier played in Monday night’s (Nov. 20) season opener against Tucson Pueblo at Gilbert Mesquite.

Xavier jumped to an 11-0 lead in the first quarter, but that quickly evaporated. Simply put, the Gators were outplayed in every phase of the game and Pueblo, a 4A Conference quarterfinalist a year ago, earned a 72-65 victory.

The road doesn’t get any easier on Tuesday (Nov. 21). Xavier will face Mesquite at 5:30 p.m. Mesquite is the defending 5A champion and routed Tucson Flowing Wells 117-12 in its tourney opener.

Asked what about the performance frustrated her the most, Gillom said, “All of it. Pueblo played smarter, outrebounded us, they outran us . . . after all of the running we’ve been doing (in practice) . . .

“Our defense is more mature than that. Overall, we have to learn to play consistently for all four quarters. We definitely have a lot to work on.’’

Pueblo also was quicker and seemed more athletic. The Warriors stepped into the passing lanes to take the ball away. They did pretty much whatever they wanted.

When Xavier had the ball, its players did a lot of standing around. When the ballhandler would come across the half-court line and get some defensive pressure from Pueblo, there often would be no one to throw to because teammates were not coming to get the ball.

Four of the Gators’ five starters scored in double figures, but very few seemed to have much of an impact.

Senior forward Montana Oltrogge scored 18 points, followed by junior wing Addison Putnam (13, including three 3-pointers), senior forward Katie Hassett and junior point guard Leilani McIntosh (10 each).

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