They are juniors Addison Putnam and Paris Moore.
The 5-foot-10 Putnam is Xavier’s main 3-point shooter and has made a big difference in countless games, putting the ball in the basket from virtually anywhere with a high-arcing shot that flies out of her left hand. Putnam connected on 60 3-pointers during the regular season.
The 5-11 Moore has a tough job every game trying to shut down the opponent’s top offensive player. She does it with a long reach, strong lateral movement and a burst of speed that enables her to convert turnovers into driving layups almost before anyone realizes what has happened.
Putnam admitted she “was nervous to shoot’’ in the early days of club ball about five years ago, but gradually developed a feel for the long shot and when to take it.
She has worked on her shot with Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom when Gillom was an assistant coach and this season as the person in charge.
“Coach has helped me a lot, given me confidence,’’ Putnam said. “In a game, she will tell me to take my shot if I’m open and tells me to keep shooting even when I have missed a few, that the shots will eventually start falling again.’’
Sometimes Putnam will face frustrating situations when defenses swarm her, such as with Goodyear Millennium in last week’s 6A Conference semifinals. She knows there are other ways that she can contribute and hopes to put everything together when the Gators meet Surprise Valley Vista for the state championship on Wednesday (Feb. 28) at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena.
“I can help out by setting up my teammates with good assists,’’ said Putnam, who averages 10 points, 1.6 assists and 1.9 steals on defense. “I am hoping that in this game, I can get that feeling and be able to help the team with some points.’’
Gillom is hopeful for the perfect storm against Valley Vista and that Putnam finds her shooting touch again.
“Those 3’s are a bonus for us,’’ Gillom said. “When she’s on, she can really knock them down.’’
Putnam would like Xavier to win a title for seniors such as Katie Hassett and Montana Oltrogge.
“We know how much it would mean to them,’’ Putnam said.
“This has already been a great season, playing with the team that I love. Game days are so much fun. The end of the game (a win) is a great experience.’’
Moore said the Gators were a bit nervous against Millennium, but were able to turn things around.
“It was kind of scary, knowing we were playing in a big place like that (ASU). But we started to say, “We got this,’ and were able to stay in the game. After the first quarter, we were being like family, like we always are. And it’s great to have everybody cheering us on. I think we will be more used to our surroundings this time.’’
Moore has been playing club ball with Putnam, Hassett, Oltrogge and junior point guard Leilani McIntosh for quite some time. That familiarity is what helped draw her to Xavier.
There is no doubt what her role is.
“Definitely defense,’’ Moore said. “Ever since I can remember, I have been on the best player (guarding) most of the time. I take a lot of pride knowing that is what I have to do. And if I happen to struggle, I have confidence that my teammates will help push me through it. Sometimes I can’t see a screen, but they usually tell me it’s coming.’’
Gillom said she just tells Moore to go out and do what she needs to do, get the job done.
“She knows that’s her job,’’ Gillom said. “On offense, she probably could score any time she wants, but she plays well within the team concept. She’s got those drives, too and she needs to learn how to finish them.’’
Moore tumbles to the floor quite often on defense and when she is driving toward the basket after making a steal.
“I just know I need to get back up and keep going,’’ she said.
Moore had good numbers across the board during the regular season – 7.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.6 steals.
Her older sister competes in track for Pima Community College in Tucson and Moore enjoys doubling up in track for Xavier in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and the 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays.
“I think I’m naturally fast and that helps carry me across the finish line,’’ she said. “I think playing basketball helps me with my footwork for track.’’
Believe it or not, Moore also has time to have a job at a pizzeria in east Phoenix. Not delivery, but if she had to, she could get the food to the intended destination in quick order.
That’s fast, and there will be more speed when the Gators return to the gym in 2018-19.
“We will lose our bigger players (to graduation), but we will be fast, maybe one of the fastest teams in the state,’’ she said.
Moore and Putnam should be able to provide XCP with the energy it needs.