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 2, 2019

XCP coach expects more from her basketball team

It was a scenario that has played over and over again for Xavier Prep’s basketball team.

The Gators have done enough to produce the top power-points ranking by the Arizona Interscholastic Association, yet at other times, they show little resemblance to that team.

The team’s performance can sometimes leave coach Jennifer Gillom scratching her head.

Take Friday night’s (Feb. 1) contest against visiting Chandler High, for example.

The Gators came out of the gate in the first quarter, looking much like the group that their fans have come to know and love with a 20-6 lead.

Their grip loosened a bit in the second quarter, and in the third, they had all they could do to hang on. Chandler pulled to within two points about midway through the quarter, and the Wolves kept the pressure on in the fourth.

But Xavier managed to retain its advantage and went on for a 49-41 victory. It left Gillom scratching her head again.

“It’s not what I expected,’’ she said afterward. “There were some not-so-good moments.’’

Some of them involved shooting woes, as if the Gators had fallen into a polar vortex.

“Our shots weren’t falling, and I think that kind of made us forget about defense,’’ she said. “Hopefully, we got it out of our system.’’

Gillom pointed to something that occurred in the first quarter that might have muted the Gators’ momentum.

With 4:01 left in the period, Chandler guard Victoria Mason went down with an injury under the Chandler basket. It looked to be serious as the Activity Center crowd sat in silence and the Gators huddled for a brief prayer. After several moments, Xavier athletic trainer Laurie White and a Chandler assistant coach got Mason to her feet and helped her to the bench.

It appeared to be an ankle injury, but Mason amazingly recovered and returned to play in the third quarter. She scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half.

“When Mason got hurt, we relaxed,’’ Gillom said. “And for Chandler, sometimes when you see that your main player goes down, you get yourself together and you play harder for that player.  That’s kind of what happened.’’

Senior guard Addison Putnam led Xavier with 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and junior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood scored 10, including a trey.

Xavier got a lift of the bench from sophomore guard Victoria Saucedo, who scored the first five points in the third quarter (including a 3) and had another key basket in the fourth.

“She was awesome,’’ Gillom said. “It was good to have that. That’s what you need at this time of year, somebody to step up.’’

Xavier raised its overall record to 23-3 overall, 6-1 in 6A Premier Region play. Chandler dropped to 13-12 and 2-5.

The Gators will play their regular-season finale at home on Tuesday night (Feb. 5), and the battle with Chandler Hamilton (21-5, 6-1) will be for the region title. Xavier gave Hamilton its only region loss, 49-40, at Hamilton on Jan. 18.

The contest also will feature a performance by the Phoenix Mercury’s hip-hop dancers as well as a T-shirt giveaway. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. and will follow the freshman (4 p.m.) and junior-varsity (5:30 p.m.) games.

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