Bio

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 AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

XCP wants to run the floor, prove it belongs

Some followers of girls basketball in Arizona might view Xavier Prep’s trip to last season’s 6A Conference championship game as a one-hit wonder.

The Gators couldn’t get there again, right?

Not so fast, naysayers. The Gators have the confidence that they have the ingredients to make another run for the title trophy.

And that is despite losing its two tallest players, 6-foot-2 Katie Hassett and 6-1 Montana Oltrogge, to graduation.

So look for coach Jennifer Gillom to make a few adjustments for the 2018-19 season that tips off on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23-24) in the Scorpion Shootout at Goodyear Desert Edge. The tournament will feature 16 teams and the Gators will play four games, the first on Nov. 23 at 4:30 p.m. against Phoenix Trevor Browne.

When you’re talking adjustments, you mean run, run, and run some more.


Xavier basketball coach Jennifer Gillom (Xavier photo).
“I am pretty pleased with what I see (in preseason practices),’’ said Gillom. “We are ready to start where we left off. We won’t be as big, but we will have the speed to compensate for that. We also will rely again on our defense. We will look small, but we feel we can defend against anyone of any size.’’

Xavier, which finished 27-6 last season and earned state runner-up, the highest finish in school history, is led by its senior tri-captains, point guard Leilani McIntosh, wing and shooter deluxe Addie Putnam and guard Paris Rasheed-Moore, perhaps the team’s top defender.

Also watch for returnee Elysia Fleetwood, a junior guard-forward, sophomore guard Kailey Appel, a transfer from Mesa Red Mountain, and senior guard-forward Truly Helton.

As for the height issue, the Gators have four players who are capable of standing tall – junior center Tanya Barakat (6 feet), sophomore power forward Rachel Orr (6-0) and a pair of freshmen – center Ellie Higgins (6-0) and power forward Toni Garcia (5-10).

Barakat, who has played goalie for XCP’s lacrosse team, showed good aggressiveness during XCP’s title run in the Thunderbird Summer League. Orr was among the important elements in a 13-5 finish for the JV last season.

Higgins is the first cousin of Hassett and already is showing good movement under the basket. Garcia should be able to provide added rebounding strength. All four players are able to run the floor and fit into what Gillom is trying to accomplish.

“We are keeping a lot of the stuff (plays) that we had before, but we’re putting in a lot of new things,’’ Gillom said. “It’s better to have both than to start completely over.

“It’s all a work in progress. We don’t want to show anything too early (in the season). There’s a lot for them to grasp right now. It’s coming, and when they (younger players) do get it, it’s going to be good for us.’’

The coach wants to build a top-notch record, but that will not come by playing a lot of pushovers early on.

“In order to be the best, you have to play the best,’’ she said.

2018-19 Xavier Prep basketball roster

(listed alphabetically)

Kailey Appel, So., 5-8, G.

Tanya Barakat, Jr., 6-0, Sr.

Mackenzie Coder, So., 5-6, PG.

Cara Coffman, Sr., 5-10, PF.

Elysia Fleetwood, Jr., 5-11, G-F.

Toni Garcia, Fr., 5-10, PF.

Truly Helton, Sr., 5-8, G-F.

Ellie Higgins, Fr., 6-0, C.

Leilani McIntosh, Sr., 5-5, PG.

Bianca Nava, Sr., 5-6, PG.

Rachel Orr, So., 6-0, PF.

Addie Putnam, Sr., 5-9, G.

Paris Rasheed-Moore, Sr., 5-9, G.

Sophie Sash, So., 5-5, G.

Victoria Saucedo, So., 5-7, G.

Head coach -- Jennifer Gillom. Assistants -- Patrick Mangosing, Rikki Mulloy.

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