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, February 16, 2019

XCP holds off Chander, advances to hoops semis

Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom stood in front of her team’s bench and called over her three senior captains, Paris Rasheed-Moore, Leilani McIntosh and Addie Putnam.

They embraced as Gillom imparted a special message to them after the Gators held on to defeat visiting Chandler High 57-52 on Friday night (Feb. 15) in a 6A Conference quarterfinal game between the Premier Region rivals.

“This was our last home game and I told them I was going to miss them,’’ Gillom said. “I started out as their PE teacher when they were freshmen and I want to see them get a state championship.’’

Thanks to five free throws that dropped through the net in the final minute and a half, second-seeded Xavier was able to turn back a furious rally by 10th-seeded Chandler and advanced to the semifinals on Thursday (Feb. 21) against two-time defending state champion Surprise Valley Vista, the No. 6 seed. Tipoff is 3 p.m. at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena.

The other semifinal, at 6 p.m., will feature top-seeded Chandler Hamilton and No. 4 Phoenix Pinnacle.

Xavier and Valley Vista both are 25-4. Xavier came tantalizingly close to capturing its first state title last season, but Valley Vista defeated the Gators 68-55.

Against Chandler, Xavier led by 16 points with 1:18 left in the third quarter and 13 at the break going into the fourth.

Whether the Gators were too relaxed or what, the Wolves stormed back and finally tied it at 52-52 with 1:33 left in the game on a 3-pointer by guard Victoria Mason.

It was the last points the Wolves would score as Xavier would get three free throws from Putnam and two from McIntosh to put the game away and give the Gators their third win over the Wolves (15-15) this season.

“Beating a team three times in one season is not easy,’’ Gillom said. “We knew Chandler was going to give us a run for our money.’’

She said she was pleased with the win, “but I am not pleased by the way we played. That is not us.’’

You can be sure that she will be reminding her team in the coming days that it will need to stay focused and step up its play.

Putnam leads the team with a 16.0 scoring average. Her 3-point shooting is integral to the offense as it was against Chandler with four of the long-range shots (17 points). She has close to 60 treys for the season.

McIntosh is averaging 14 points, 3.9 assists and 4.3 steals and is beginning to assert herself even more as her level of play rises. She scored 25 against Chandler and 21 in a first-round win over Phoenix Desert Vista.

Rasheed-Moore will get her points (average of 10.5), but she is the most valuable on defense (5.4 steals) and on the boards (team-leading 5.4).

Valley Vista lost four seniors from last year’s team but would seem to have enough experience remaining. The Monsoon appeared to be backcourt-oriented last season but this season are looking to two talented young inside players – 6-foot-1 sophomore Marisa Davis (16.1 points, 6.8 rebounds) and 5-10 freshman Jennah Isai (18.2 points).

6A Conference basketball quarterfinals

Friday’s results

(Seeding in parentheses)

Chandler Hamilton (1) 52, Phoenix Mountain Pointe (8) 50; Phoenix Pinnacle (4) 61, Gilbert Highland (5) 58; Surprise Valley Vista (6) 80, Gilbert Perry (3) 63; Xavier Prep (2) 57, Chandler High (10) 52.

6A Conference semifinals

Thursday, Feb. 21 at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena

Xavier Prep vs. Surprise Valley Vista, 3 p.m.; Chandler Hamilton vs. Phoenix Pinnacle, 6 p.m.

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