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.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Last team standing -- will it be the Gators?

Xavier Prep defeated a strong Goodyear Millennium team in last week’s 6A Conference basketball semifinals, and now the Gators will face an opponent with a similar style in Valley Vista as the teams meet on Wednesday at 5 p.m. for the state championship at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena.

Valley Vista (24-6), the defending champion, is the No. 2 seed while Xavier (25-5) is No. 5. Xavier will be attempting to win the first state title in school history.

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom said Valley Vista doesn’t have much size underneath the basket that Millennium did, “but overall they are balanced and their guards are fast like us.’’

Xavier has juniors Leilani McIntosh (point) and Paris Moore in the backcourt, and junior Addison Putnam on the wing, where she drains 3-point shots with regularity.

The Gators also have two strong inside players in 6-foot-2 senior Katie Hassett and 6-1 senior Montana Oltrogge, the latter as the team’s leading scorer at 21 points per game during the regular season.

Valley Vista has two key senior guards in Taylor Chavez and Terrysha Banner, senior wing/power forward Clarissa Rodarte and 6-1 freshman forward Marisa Davis.

The 5-10 Chavez has some of the best numbers in the state – 23.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 5.7 steals. She also has made 60 3-point shorts. The 5-5 Banner averages 14 points and 3.3 assists, with 46 3-point baskets. Rodarte averages 12.5 points and 5.3 rebounds. And Davis averages 9.9 points ands 8.2 rebounds.

“It will be a battle but we feel we match up with them,’’ Gillom said. “Millennium was physical, and we don’t expect this one to be as much, but Valley Vista has good athletes and can run.’’

Nerves were a factor for Xavier in the early going against Millennium but Gillom doesn’t anticipate a repeat here, despite what is at stake.

“If we focus on what we’re doing and do what we need to do, we should be all right,’’ Gillom said.

One of Valley Vista’s losses was to 4A Conference champion Chandler Seton Catholic, one was to Gilbert Mesquite, which plays for the 5A Conference championship on Tuesday night (Feb. 27), and another to Millennium.

Xavier’s losses were to Mesquite (twice), Tucson Pueblo, Gilbert Highland and Phoenix Pinnacle.

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