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.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Gators win, come home "at the right time for us''

Xavier Prep basketball fans should be excited to watch their favorite team play its first home game of the season against Mesa Skyline at 7 p.m. on Friday (Dec. 1).

But they probably will not be as pumped up as the coaching staff and players themselves.

“We need one (home game). It’s coming at the right time for us,’’ said Gators coach Jennifer Gillom.

Her sentiments come after a grueling first week of the season that saw the team go 2-3 in the (Gilbert) Highland Thanksgiving tournament and win the first game of the “regular’’ season, a 64-49 triumph on the road over Phoenix Mountain Pointe on Tuesday night (Nov. 28).

“Overall, we are happy. The most important thing is that we played well at both ends of the floor,’’ Gillom said. “That said, we are still not satisfied with the overall consistency of our game. That has to get better.’’

The Gators’ defense put pressure on Mountain Pointe from the opening tip, forcing several turnovers that helped to produce an eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter was highlighted by a rare 4-point play from senior guard Payton Davis.

She hit a 3-pointer to begin the quarter, and a few minutes later drilled a 3-pointer from along the baseline, was fouled and converted the free throw for the 4-pointer.

Xavier outscored the Pride 10-0 to begin the third period, but Mountain Pointe went on an 11-4 run to remain within range.

In the fourth, the Gators increased their lead to 21, but a pair of 3-pointers by the Pride in the final moments soothed some of their wounds.

Getting a big lead on a few occasions and watching it shrink was not what Gillom wanted to see.

“Once we get a big lead like that, we have to keep ‘em down. We can’t let them get back into it,’’ she said.

Senior forward Montana Oltrogge scored 20 points, including two 3-pointers, to lead the Gators. Junior point guard Leilani McIntosh found a good pace and played perhaps her best overall game of the season with 15 points. Junior Addison Putnam had 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. And senior forward Katie Hassett continued to work hard under the basket. She was scoreless in the first half but came back with six points in the second half, along with aggressive rebounding and defense.

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