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, February 6, 2019

Gators fall in finale, await state seeding

You just knew it was going to go down right until the end.

What else would you expect from the state’s top two 6A Conference girls basketball teams that also were fighting for their region championship?

Xavier Prep’s Gators and the Huskies from Chandler Hamilton took it to the limit on Tuesday night (Feb. 5) in the regular-season finale at the Activity Center. It wasn’t officially decided until a desperation 3-point shot at the buzzer by the Gators’ Paris Rasheed-Moore fell short of the mark and allowed Hamilton to hold on for a 38-36 victory.

So now we can sort out the post-season – a little bit, at least.

Xavier, the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s No. 1 power points team going into this one, likely will wind up No. 2 after splitting two games with Premier Region rivals Hamilton and Gilbert Perry with a 23-4 overall record and 6-2 region mark. Hamilton (22-5, 7-1), which was No. 2 going in, is expected to switch places with the Gators and get the top seed when the AIA’s last rankings are announced on Saturday (Feb. 9).

The state tournament begins Feb. 13, with the top eight teams earning automatic berths and playing their openers at home. The rest of the field won’t be known until late on Thursday night (Feb. 7), when teams ranked 9-24 meet in “play-in’’ games.

Xavier had an 18-17 lead with halftime fast approaching, but a quick run allowed Hamilton to take a 22-18 lead at the break on a free throw by Amyah Reaves and two baskets by Raelin Denning.

It stayed close throughout the third quarter, and a drive to the bucket with four seconds left by Rasheed-Moore cut the Hamilton lead to 30-28. Rasheed-Moore would finish the game with 18 points, half of her team’s total.

Hamilton, which played solid defense the whole night, started to gain the upper hand with patient passing and rebounding at both ends. The Huskies often caught XCP flat-footed underneath.

Hamilton held a 35-28 lead with 3:37 left. Rasheed-Moore scored two straight baskets to cut it to three, but Hamilton point guard Victoria Davis made it 37-32 with a shot that seemingly was glued to the rim before falling in.

The Gators cut it to 37-36 on a free throw by point guard Leilani McIntosh and a huge 3-point basket by guard Addie Putnam with 1:15 left.

After two timeouts by Hamilton at :40 and :22, the Gators were forced to foul and Reaves scored the Huskies’ final point at :06 to make it 38-36.

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom quickly called timeout with :05 showing, but the odds were not with the Gators because they had to put the ball in play under the Hamilton basket and needed to go the length of the floor. Rasheed-Moore launched the final shot just after crossing the midcourt line.

Automatic 6A Conference qualifiers

Teams listed alphabetically by school. Order and state seeding announced Saturday, Feb. 9).

Scottsdale Chaparral, Chandler Hamilton, Gilbert Highland, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, Gilbert Perry, Phoenix Pinnacle, Surprise Valley Vista, Phoenix Xavier Prep.

Play-in games

Thursday, Feb. 7 at sites of higher seeds. Seeding in parentheses.

Chandler Basha (24) at Mesa Red Mountain (9), Mesa Desert Ridge (17) at Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (16), Glendale Mountain Ridge (18) at Phoenix Desert Vista (15), Mesa Skyline (21) at Tucson High (12), Glendale Copper Canyon (22) at Yuma Cibola (11), Queen Creek (20) at Anthem Boulder Creek (13), Mesa Mountain View (19) at Mesa Westwood (14), Mesa Dobson (23) at Chandler High (10).

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