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.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Injury shrouds Gators' hoops title triumph

It was as if the basketball game were being played in a library instead of a gymnasium.

It was that quiet.

That scenario usually exists when a player appears to be badly injured and the fans are waiting on the edge of their seats to learn the outcome.

For Xavier Prep’s Gators, those moments hit very close to home.

Sprawled on the floor at Goodyear Desert Edge was senior guard Leilani McIntosh, the team’s heart and soul who had begun the season with a full-throttle effort in the Scorpion Shootout.

With 4:37 left in the second quarter of the tourney title game on Saturday night (Nov. 24) against Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, McIntosh went down after making a steal and providing an assist for teammate Addie Putnam.

Coaches and the Desert Edge team trainer worked on McIntosh’s right knee, got her up and escorted her to the bench as she winced in pain. More work was done with ice and wraps, and she remained with her teammates on the bench and stood for timeouts. She even smiled a few times.

Followers hope this may have been an indication of a diminished severity. She will be evaluated over the next several days, and coach Jennifer Gillom and the Gators will see where they go from there.

For now, XCP reigns as the tournament champion after a hard-fought 53-49 victory. The Gators, who had easy wins in their first three games, had to gut this one out.

McIntosh still manged to earn the tournament’s MVP award, and she was joined by Putnam on the All-Tournament Team.

In the Gators’ 72-37 semifinal win over Tucson High earlier in the day, some late-arriving fans squeezed into the packed auxiliary gym and were told, “You missed it. No. 30 (McIntosh) is putting on a show.’’

McIntosh means more to the team than just her ball-handling skills. She can hit the 3-pointer when necessary, drive through traffic and with fellow senior guard Paris Rasheed-Moore steals the ball from opponents with regularity.

After the injury, Rasheed-Moore stepped up. She had been struggling on offense in the earlier games, but came on to score 16 of her 18 points. Putnam led the Gators with 20 points after scoring a team-high 24 against Tucson, letting her trademark treys fly.

Sandra Day O’Connor kept the pressure on over the final three quarters, outscoring Xavier 40-32. The Gators managed to play decent defense at just the right times to maintain their lead.

“That (injury) was a scary moment,’’ said Gillom, breathing (sort of) a fingers-crossed sigh of relief. “That just lets you know what this team is about, that we are able to handle adversity. We did it in the summer league (when McIntosh had an injury) and we did it again here.

“I’m proud of the poise they showed. It definitely was not our best game. There was a lot of miscommunication, which is somewhat expected early in the season. We still have a lot of work to do, but I am happy with where we’re at.’’

The Gators now have a few days to rest a bit and hit the practice floor before playing back-to-back games at home on Thursday (Nov. 29) against Mesa Desert Ridge and Friday (Nov. 30) against Tempe Corona del Sol.

Saturday’s scores

Xavier Prep 53, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 49 (championship)

XCP – Addie Putnam 20, Paris Rasheed-Moore 18, Leilani McIntosh 7, Victoria Saucedo 2, Truly Helton 2, Cara Coffman 2, Elysia Fleetwood 1, Mackenzie Coder 1.

Xavier Prep 72, Tucson High 37 (semifinals)

XCP – Putnam 24, McIntosh 17, Fleetwood 8, Rasheed-Moore 8, Coder 8, Helton 5, Bianca Nava 2.

Friday’s scores

Xavier Prep 72, Flagstaff Coconino 29

XCP – McIntosh 20, Putnam 13, Rasheed-Moore 12, Coder 6, Saucedo 6, Helton 4, Fleetwood 4, Sophie Sash 3, Coffman 2, Toni Garcia 2.

Xavier Prep 100, Phoenix Trevor Browne 17

XCP – McIntosh 31, Putnam 25, Fleetwood 9, Sash 7, Rasheed-Moore 6, Coffman 6, Coder 5, Tanya Barakat 4, Saucedo 3, Helton 2, Nava 2.

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