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, December 27, 2018

Basketball Gators walk a dangerous tightrope

Xavier Prep’s basketball team now has a 15-0 record and is the top-ranked team in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s power points listing for 6A Conference schools.

Yet you would have had a hard time convincing Gators coach Jennifer Gillom after her team’s second of two games in Thursday’s (Dec. 27) first day of the Lady Titan Winter Hoops Classic at Phoenix Arcadia.

XCP picked up a 57-37 win over Mesa Westwood in its opener, but the second contest, against Oro Valley (Tucson) Ironwood Ridge, was a borderline disaster.

The Gators triumphed 38-32, and had to hang on for dear life the game’s late stages.

Xavier lost senior star point guard Leilani McIntosh late in the first quarter with a knee injury and could not compensate. The Gators made just 14 of their 58 field-goal attempts for a woeful .194 percentage, and connected on just a pair of 3-pointers, both by junior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood.

McIntosh received treatment from Arcadia’s athletic trainers and sat on the bench the rest of the way with her right knee wrapped with a large plastic bag of ice. Gillom said McIntosh possibly could play as the tournament moves to Day 2 on Friday (Dec. 28), but stopped short of saying that it definitely would happen.

Xavier faces Phoenix Desert Vista on Friday at 5:45 p.m. in Arcadia’s main gym. The Gators defeated the Thunder, 61-49, in a game on Dec. 7 in Ahwatukee. The Gators likely will have two more games on Saturday (Dec. 29).

McIntosh scored a team-high 14 points against Westwood, but had just five against Ironwood Ridge before leaving the game. Senior guard Paris Rasheed-Moore had an all-around strong effort in helping the Gators keep their unbeaten record intact, scoring 16 points as well as coming up with several key rebounds and steals.

After the game, Gillom was forceful as she took her players to task.

Then, speaking to The XCP Files, she said, “It’s almost like we’re starting the season over. We need to show progress, not have regress.

“We have some players who have not quite matured yet. Whenever things don’t go their way and their shots don’t fall, it shows. We need our people to start stepping up.’’

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