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.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

E's big Effort sparks Gator hoops rally

Let us introduce you to Elysia Fleetwood.

To her Xavier Prep basketball teammates, she simply is known as “E.’’

The junior has continued to Evolve on the floor for the Gators this season.

And on Friday night (Jan. 25), “E’’ meant “Everything.’’

After missing the front end of a one-and-one free-throw attempt with 19 seconds left in the game and Xavier clinging to a one-point lead over visiting Gilbert Perry, she returned to the charity stripe for two more attempts.

She nailed both of them.

It made the Gators breathe a bit easier, but there were three seconds left as Perry inbounded the ball from underneath the Xavier basket following a timeout.

The odds were against the Pumas, but they gave it their best shot. The inbounds pass went toward a Perry player near the sideline, but it was a bit off the mark and it went into the hands of Xavier’s Paris Rasheed-Moore.

At last, this one was finally settled and Xavier earned a 46-43 victory in the 6A Conference Premier Region battle, erasing some of the frustration from a two-point loss at Perry on Jan. 8.

Xavier, ranked No. 1 in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s power-points list, raised its record to 21-3 overall and 4-1 in region play. No. 3 Perry slipped to 16-7 and 4-2.

The Gators have three more games left in the regular season – at Chandler Basha on Tuesday (Jan. 29) and home games against Chandler High on Feb. 1 and Chandler Hamilton on Feb. 5.

“A game like this just shows people what kind of character we have,’’ said Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom. “That’s what we need at this time of year.’’

Xavier led at the end of the first quarter, but Perry roared back with an 11-3 run late in the second for a one-point lead at halftime.

Fleetwood scored six in the third quarter as the Gators led by four going into Period #4.

Perry rallied to lead 43-40, after which Xavier called a timeout with 1:21 left.

The Gators then worked the ball around to senior guard Addie Putnam, and she drained a 3-pointer to tie it and the Xavier faithful roared their approval. To say that was a huge shot was an understatement.

After a steal, Rasheed-Moore was fouled and made the first of a one-and-one but missed the second with 26 seconds left. She would lead the Gators with 14 points, with Putnam getting 12.

Fleetwood missed the one-and-one at :19, but was back at the line after she grabbed a rebound and Perry was forced to foul at :03.

The ball settled into the net twice, giving Fleetwood the most important two points of her eight-point night.

Asked what she told Fleetwood during the timeout, Gillom said, “I said, “All you have to do is follow through (releasing the ball).’  She listened, and she knocked ‘em down.’’

And what was Fleetwood’s take on the situation?

“My main focus was this is what my team needs,’’ she said. “I love this team and will do anything for them. I just wanted to take my time.’’

It completed a day of multi-tasking for her. Before the freshman game, she was helping and encouraging the younger players during warm-ups.

Fleetwood said she has thought about coaching some day, and said even though the freshmen have struggled, “Having an older perspective will help. They need to know to stick together, that it might not happen for them now, but it will later.’’

If the freshmen were in the same situation as Fleetwood had been at the end of the game, what would she have told them?

“Just take your time. And your team is still going to love you, miss it or make it,’’ she said.

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