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.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

XCP basketball takes shape in summer

Coming off what likely can be considered as the best season in school history, the 6A state runner-up Xavier Gators are back at it on the basketball court.

The team is participating in the 21st annual Thunderbird Summer League at Thunderbird High in north Phoenix.

Through Thursday (June 6), the Gators were 3-0 with a state title game rematch against Surprise Valley Vista just around the corner on June 11 at 9 p.m. The team plays its final three “regular season’’ games the following week, against Phoenix Horizon (June 18), Scottsdale Chaparral (June 19) and Cave Creek Cactus Shadows (June 21). Playoffs will follow.

The latest triumph came on Thursday, a 47-44 nail-biting win in overtime over Scottsdale Desert Mountain.

Games are played with two 20-minute halves and a running clock. There are no free throws until the last minute of the game and if there is a foul on a shot before that, the team that is fouled is awarded a point and another possession. If the basket is made, the team that is fouled gets the two points plus a bonus point.

Xavier head coach Jennifer Gillom, assistants Patrick Mangosing and Nikki Mulloy are trying to figure out which players fit best in which spots.

“Players will be playing a ton of different positions,’’ Gillom said.

One of the main objectives is finding girls who can play under the basket on a regular basis.

Xavier lost its two big players, Montana Oltrogge and Katie Hassett (both over 6 feet) to graduation.

Gillom had junior-to-be Elysia Fleetwood playing the middle on defense in the early going, due in part to the fact that she is one of the strongest players and has good agility.

Xavier probably should have won in regulation, but was ice-cold on free throws in the final moments.

“We need to work on those,’’ Gillom said.

Sophomore to-be Mackenzie Coder hit one free throw in overtime and senior Addison Putnam converted four. The last two gave Xavier a six-point lead with 11.3 seconds left, until Desert Mountain hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Seniors Leilani McIntosh and Paris Rasheed-Moore will be in their familiar backcourt spots, with Putnam on the wing launching those 3-pointers.

Gillom should get a lift from transfer wing/forward Kailey Appel, a sophomore who comes over from Mesa Red Mountain. She appears to have good court sense and knows where to be at the proper time, and there is a reason for that – her father, Martin, was the head girls coach at Red Mountain for about 20 years before resigning at the end of last season, in February.

Also, junior Tanya Barakat should provide a physical presence underneath. She played well for the junior varsity last season and was the goalkeeper for Xavier’s club lacrosse team.

Gillom wants to shuttle as many players as she can in and out of the lineup.

“That’s what these games are for,’’ she said. “It’s all a learning experience for us. I know I probably could win all of the games, but we need to learn what to do and when. We are going to make plenty of mistakes, and we need to continue to try and cut back on those.’’

Xavier Prep roster for

Thunderbird Summer League

(Listed alphabetically)

Kailey Appel So.

Tanya Barakat Jr.

Ireland Blim So.

Channing Coates So.

Mackenzie Coder So.

Cara Coffman Sr.

Elysia Fleetwood Jr.

Nadia Gonzalez So.

Truly Helton Sr.

Leilani McIntosh Sr.

Bianca Nava Sr.

Addison Putnam Sr.

Paris Rasheed-Moore Sr.

Sophie Sash So.

Tori Saucedo So.

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