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.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Second-half defense rescues Gator hoops

If one thing doesn’t work, you have to adjust and try something else. If you don’t change, you could be in big trouble.

Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom had to switch strategy after the Gators trailed Chandler High on Tuesday night (Jan. 15).

The deficit was only four points, so it wasn’t insurmountable. But Gillom didn’t want the Wolves to increase their lead.

The full-court pressure that Xavier has used to control many of its opponents wasn’t working all that well against Chandler, which features guards that have quickness and good passing skills.

Gillom switched the Gators’ defense to a zone, which they have used intermittently along the way.

Xavier held Chandler to just four points in the third quarter and only seven in the fourth and went on to secure a 48-38 victory in a 6A Conference Premier Region game at Chandler’s House of Payne.

Xavier is 18-3 overall, 2-1 in region, while Chandler is 11-9 and 1-2.

“I thought our defense turned things around, as well as our willingness to crash the boards,’’ Gillom said. “Getting those rebounds will help get you extra possessions, and we did that. It was a good group effort.’’

Xavier’s second-half defense was successful against Chandler 6-foot-4 junior Maya Peat. She finished the game with 10 points, but only three in the second half.

And on the glass, senior Paris Rasheed-Moore increased her productivity. She had 13 rebounds for the Gators.

“That helped us tremendously,’’ Gillom said.

Xavier had four 3-point baskets, two each from senior Addie Putnam and sophomore Mackenzie Coder. Gillom said Coder’s 3s, one in each half, came at key points and allowed the team to stay close and later to maintain its lead.

Putnam led the Gators with 17 points and senior point guard Leilani McIntosh added 12.

Xavier will return to Chandler on Friday night (Jan. 18) for a game at Hamilton. The Huskies were the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s No. 1 power-points team as of Wednesday morning (Jan. 16).

They have a home game against No. 2 Gilbert Perry on Thursday night (Jan. 17) before hosting Xavier, which is No. 3. Xavier’s region loss was to Perry.

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