The Gators were outplayed in every way, shape and form by Tucson Pueblo on Monday night (Nov. 20). They came back to face host Gilbert Mesquite on Tuesday night. It would be a daunting task because Mesquite, the defending 5A Conference champion, had put 117 points on the board against Tucson Flowing Wells in the first round.
Xavier matched Mesquite stride for stride for the most part, even leading at halftime (by two) but the talented Mesquite team regained its composure in the second half and went on to win 60-52.
The Gators were aggressive from the start at both ends of the floor. They moved the ball around, rebounded with more authority and more importantly did not have the blank look on their faces that they had in the opener.
“I think that after what happened on Monday, people expected them (Mesquite) to come in and just run us off the court,’’ Gillom said. “Mesquite did not outhustle us and they did not outplay us. For us to hold a good team like that (to 60) after they got 117 the night before was a big improvement.
“We learned from yesterday (Monday). We learned about discipline and trusting one another. They came back and did what I asked them to do. We had a few little defensive mistakes, but it was a good effort. I think that overall, this will help us down the road.’’
Xavier trailed by six at the end of the first quarter but came back to hold Mesquite to nine in the second and led 30-28 at the half.
Unfortunately for the Gators, the intermission interrupted their momentum.
“Yes, I was thinking that if we had about four more minutes, we might have been farther ahead with the way we were playing,’’ Gillom said.
Mesquite was led by senior star point guard Shaylee Gonzales. But the two-time All-Arizona player and Brigham Young signee limped off the court in the closing moments of the third quarter and did not return. The injury did not appear to be too serious and her mother, Mesquite coach Candace Gonzales, likely kept her out the rest of the way as a precautionary measure.
Senior forward Montana Oltrogge had another solid game for the Gators. She led the team with 21 points and was much more aggressive in the rebounding department. Junior wing Addison Putnam scored 11, including three 3-pointers, and junior point guard Leilani McIntosh scored 10.
After a two-day break, Xavier returns to tournament play on Friday (Nov. 24) at Mesquite with a contest against Flowing Wells. Tip-off is at noon. The Gators are expected to play a second game later that day (time TBA) and one more on Saturday (Nov. 25). Saturday’s games will be at Highland.