Bio

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 AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Record of 4-1 in hoops tourney is bittersweet

There were no blaring horns, no confetti. No New Year’s Eve-type celebration.

Whatever Xavier Prep’s Gators had in mind after finishing 4-1 in the Lady Titan Winter Hoops Classic at Phoenix Arcadia over the weekend, it likely was more of a low-key deal.

Yes, they will remember the four wins – over Flagstaff Coconino, Phoenix Thunderbird, Phoenix Horizon and Peoria Centennial. But the one loss – to Ganado High – was a killer. It likely prevented them from getting a shot at the tournament title. That setback was due primarily to defensive difficulties.

Xavier is now 12-3 and will be working on defense, defense and more defense as it awaits its next two games – back-to-back home games on Jan. 7-8 against Peoria Liberty and Scottsdale Chaparral.

“In a way, that loss for us was good – it was a learning experience that showed us that if you don’t have a good defense, you cannot win very many games,’’ said Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom.

“It showed us that we have to play well at both ends of the floor, not just one end.’’

That also means boxing out underneath the basket, especially when the Gators are on offense, to give them a chance to put back missed shots.

Victories over Horizon and Centennial on Saturday heralded the “arrival’’ of freshman forward-post Mia Davis. The 6-foot-1 player, who had been inconsistent at best until that point, scored 20 points against Horizon (55-52) and 12 against Centennial (49-21).

“Mia is coming along,’’ Gillom said. “She is starting to become more patient and she is starting to see and learn what kind of player she is capable of becoming.’’

Horizon pushed the Gators to the limit earlier in the day. Xavier was able to withstand the pressure by scoring nine 3-point baskets – including five in a 24-22 fourth quarter. Davis had three 3-pointers in the game.

Gillom watched 12 of the 15 players on the roster score in the win over Centennial.


Saturday results

Xavier Prep 49, Centennial 21

Xavier scoring – Mia Davis 12, Elysia Fleetwood 8, Tori Saucedo 7, Channing Kehoe 7, Sienna Cherwinski 3, Rachel Orr 2, Sophia Alameddin 2, Mackenzie Coder 2, Lauren Etsitty 2, Hannah Young 2, Toni Garcia 1, Sophie Sash 1.


Xavier Prep 55, Horizon 52

Xavier scoring – Mia Davis 20, Tori Saucedo 10, Kailey Appel 9, Elysia Fleetwood 7, Sienna Cherwinski 5, Hannah Young 4.

XCP's Menne, Wright finalists for media award

Senior golfer Ashley Menne and senior swimmer Maddie Wright are the latest Xavier Prep athletes to be recognized by the azcentral.com media outlet.

Menne, a three-time state champion and azcentral.com Golf Player of the Year, finished as state runner-up in 2019 while Xavier finished second as a team. She is among eight finalists for the 2019 POY.

Wright came on strong late in the season to win the 100-yard freestyle and finish third in the 200-yard freestyle at the state meet.

Menne and Wright join two Xavier volleyball players who are Player of the Year finalists and members of the All-Arizona Team – Briana McKnight and Jasmine Knight.

Athletes and coaches from around the state will be honored at the annual accentral Sports Awards celebration at Arizona State’s Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium on May 17, 2020.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Xavier soccer gets 5-0 win in consolation contest

Xavier Prep’s soccer team played a pair of tough defensive matches in the annual Excalibur Tournament in Norco, Calif., on Thursday (Dec. 26) and Friday (Dec. 27), falling in both, and had another match on Friday in the consolation round.

In that later contest, the Gators again had a good defense but this time had the offense to go with it for a 5-0 triumph over host Norco in a consolation match.

The Gators lost to Capo Valley (Mission Viejo, Calif.) 2-1 on Thursday and fell to Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 2-0 earlier on Friday.

“Overall, it was a great trip,’’ said Xavier coach Barb Chura. “All matches were competitive. We were in every game.’’

Xavier (4-3) will return home to Petznick Field to kick off the New Year on Jan. 8 against Scottsdale Chaparral. The Gators will follow that up with a road match at Gilbert Highland on Jan. 10. Start times for both are 6 p.m.

Ganado hoops tough at the end vs. Xavier

There are a few reasons why the girls’ basketball team from Ganado High brings fans from across northeastern Arizona along on its road trips.

The Hornets are quick and fundamentally sound, as most of their counterparts are in that region, and they almost always put on a good show.

An example of all of that surfaced on Friday (Dec. 27) in Day 2 of the Lady Titan Winter Hoops Classic at Phoenix Arcadia.

Ganado fell into an early 10-2 hole, and dug itself out of trouble on a few other occasions to defeat Xavier Prep 55-53, scoring a basket to break a tie with four seconds remaining.

That knocked Xavier into the consolation round, where the Gators stopped Phoenix Thunderbird 53-39 later on Friday. Xavier began the tournament on Thursday (Dec. 26) with a 55-42 win over Flagstaff Coconino.

Xavier (10-3) will play two more consolation games on Saturday (Dec. 28), against Phoenix Horizon at 9 a.m. and Peoria Centennial at 12:45 p.m.

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom was none too pleased about the team’s up-and-down performance against Ganado (12-1). She met with the players for nearly 30 minutes afterward.

She scolded the players for not hustling on the offensive boards, and for numerous defensive lapses.

“They (Ganado) wanted to win more than we did,’’ she said.

And the Gators paid little attention to what the coaches had told them before the match what some of Ganado’s offensive tendencies would be.

Ganado senior center Michelene Coleman highlighted the victory with 22 points, including eight of the Hornets’ 11 points during crunch time in the fourth quarter.

Even after what appeared to be a slight bit of improvement against Thunderbird (7-5), Gillom said, “I’m still not satisfied. We are not where we need to be at this point of the season.’’

After a big road win over Phoenix North just before the Christmas break, “I thought we were getting there. Hopefully in these next couple of games, we can get back on track.’’

The coach is concerned because the Gators begin play in the tough 6A Conference Premier Region on Jan. 14. Among the teams in that region are Chandler Hamilton, which defeated Xavier in last year’s state championship game, and Gilbert Perry.

Senior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood was one of the few Xavier players who were on their game against Ganado. She had 21 points, 10 rebounds and 6 steals.

Against Thunderbird, 13 of Xavier’s 15 players scored, led by freshman point guard Sienna Cherwinski, who scored 11 points, including three 3-pointers.


Friday results

Xavier Prep 53, Thunderbird 39

Xavier scoring – Sienna Cherwinski 11, Channing Kehoe 7, Tori Saucedo 6, Sophie Sash 5, Elysia Fleetwood 4, Mia Davis 4, Hannah Young 4, Kailey Appel 3, Mackenzie Coder 2, Rachel Orr 2, Ireland Blim 2, Sophia Alameddin 2, Toni Garcia 1.


Ganado 53, Xavier Prep 51

Xavier scoring – Elysia Fleetwood 21, Mia Davis 8, Mackenzie Coder 6, Tori Saucedo 6, Sienna Cherwinski 4, Hannah Young 4, Kailey Appel 2.


Thursday results

Xavier Prep 55, Coconino 42

Xavier scoring – Elysia Fleetwood 13, Tori Saucedo 12, Mia Davis 9, Sienna Cherwinski 7, Hannah Young 5, Kailey Appel 5, Tanya Barakat 4.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Gators' Zacher shows resolve in life, soccer

It seems like only yesterday when The XCP Files interviewed Megan Zacher about her role on Xavier Prep’s track and field team, as a middle-distance and relay runner.

But that was toward the end of the 2017-18 school year, when Zacher was a sophomore, and a lot has happened since, primarily two life-changing events.

There was the passing of her mother, Lori, who Megan says “was my biggest fan,’’ in July of 2018, and the athlete suffered a serious injury (fractured clavicle and a vertebrae about a third of the way down the spine). All of it left Zacher exhausted, and led her to regroup, saying goodbye to track and recovering from the injury to allow her to continue in soccer, another sport in which she excelled for the Gators.

Now she is in her senior soccer season as an outside left backer, focusing on defense and keeping opponents away from the goal.

Xavier is 3-1 and will travel to southern California (Norco) on the day after Christmas to participate in the annual Excalibur Tournament, which features some of the top teams in the western U.S. Matches will be held on Dec. 26-27-28.

Zacher is in her third year on the varsity soccer team, having played on the JV as a freshman.

One might think she would use the same speed she had in track to sprint down the field for some quick, easy goals, but speed also can be an important ingredient in defensive play.

She said she likes where Xavier coach Barb Chura has positioned her on the field.

“I like it a lot,’’ Zacher said. “I played forward, center-mid, a little when I was younger, but I think I am better in the back where I am now.

“I like chasing people (opponents) down the sideline to help save a goal, to get the ball and set up my teammates with passing.’’

Zacher had played some club soccer, but she was OK to play for Xavier around the time of the late fall tryouts.

Her injury occurred when she was running along the beach, trying to race her older brother, Matthew. Somehow Matthew bumped her and she went down. Matthew, a graduate of Brophy Prep, now attends Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. Their mother and father, Keith, also went to Creighton and Megan is considering attending as well, although it is unlikely she would play soccer, electing to study on business and marketing.

That possible scenario is why soccer is even more important to her, as she strives with her teammates to reach the top rung in Arizona.

The Excalibur Tournament should provide a good measuring stick for the Gators because of the quality of play, which could help the team when it returns here to the local scene.

The tournament also offers an opportunity for the Xavier players to bond and get to know each other better, drawing on the support of one another. Improved communication also helps during key moments in matches.

Zacher is one of three senior tri-captains, along with Elizabeth Warren and Megan Onofrei.

“It’s exciting and sad at the same time,’’ Zacher said. “We’re getting near the point when you know you’re not going to be playing with them again. That is why we want to do whatever we can to help this team win.’’

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

XCP hoops wins eight of its first 10 games

Eight victories in the first 10 games is not a bad way to start the basketball season.

Xavier Prep’s Gators are feeling good about themselves after their latest conquest, a 64-35 triumph over host Phoenix North on Monday night (Dec. 16).

Now the team is expected to get in some quality practice time as it prepares for another appearance in the annual Lady Titan Winter Hoops Classic at Phoenix Arcadia, on Dec. 26 and 27.

The Gators got off to a E-utiful start against North, as in Elysia “E’’ Fleetwood.

The senior guard-forward scored the first 14 points as XCP raced to a 14-4 lead. The team would not face a challenge the rest of the night, and the fourth quarter was played under a running  clock (30+ point lead), as it had in some of the previous games.

Fleetwood led the Gators with 21 points, including three 3-point baskets. As they have in most of their games this season, the Gators continued to put points on the board from long range, this time hitting 11.

Junior guard Tori Saucedo was next in line with 13 points. Nine players scored for XCP.

Xavier Prep 64, Phoenix North 35

Xavier scoring – Elysia Fleetwood 21, Tori Saucedo 13, Mia Davis 8, Sophie Sash 6, Tanya Barakat 5, Sienna Cherwinski 3, Mackenzie Coder 3, Lauren Etsitty 3, Hannah Young 2.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Trip to Yuma highlighted by soccer win over Kofa

Xavier Prep’s soccer team had a productive, happy trip to Yuma on Friday (Dec. 13).

The Gators faced Kofa High and recorded their third 8-0 victory of the season, pushing their record to 3-1.

It was the final match before the Christmas holiday, but Xavier will practice during the coming week to prepare to play in the annual Excalibur Tournament in southern California (Norco) that features some of the top teams in the West. The Gators are expected to play five matches over the two-day event on Dec. 26 and 27.

Gators maintain composure late, quiet Thunder

Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom wiped her brow and took a big sigh of relief.

Her Gators had just survived a tough test against visiting Phoenix Desert Vista with a 48-40 victory on Friday night (Dec. 13).

“I feel like I played in the game!’’ she said of the many energy-draining moments.

“We have a young team and we took a huge step forward. We were able to keep our composure at the end.’’

With a little less than five minutes left in the game, Xavier (7-2) held a 40-31 lead, but the Thunder (5-3) rallied to pull within two points twice, the last at 42-40 with a little more than a minute to play.

Xavier scored the final six points of the game on a basket and two free throws by freshman point guard Sienna Cherwinski and two more free throws by senior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood.

Fleetwood scored 13 points to lead the Gators, and freshman inside player Mia Davis contributed 11, including six free throws.

Gillom was generally pleased with her team’s effort, “but not the turnovers. We’ve got some young players and they need to think more about what they’re doing.’’

One of the Xavier highlights of the evening was the play of junior wing player Kailey Appel, particularly on defense.

“Her value to this team is with her defense,’’ Gillom said. “She played excellent defense and I liked how she played.’’

Appel also was a key factor late in the first half with all seven of her points, including a pair of 3-point baskets.

“When we needed to have somebody step up tonight, they stepped up. But you never know who that is going to be. We want to be a team that just doesn’t rely on one person,’’ Gillom said.

Desert Vista got a strong game from sophomore multi-purpose player Hannah Robbins, who scored 24 points, matching her uniform number.

Next up for the Gators is a rare Monday night contest on Dec. 16, when the team stays in the neighborhood to play against Phoenix North, 12th Street and Thomas Road.


Xavier Prep 48, Phoenix Desert Vista 40

Xavier scoring – Elysia Fleetwood 13, Mia Davis 11, Sienna Cherwinski 8, Kailey Appel 7, Tori Saucedo 6, Mackenzie Coder 3.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

XCP hoops has opponents on speed dial

Time isn’t standing still for Xavier Prep’s basketball team. In fact, the clock is moving faster than one might think.

For the third straight game on Tuesday night (Dec. 10), the Gators played with a running clock in the fourth quarter, signifying a lead of 30 or more points at the end of three.

Xavier had disposed of Mesa Desert Ridge and Tempe Corona del Sol last week, and this time it was visiting Avondale Westview that came out on the short end of a 74-22 score.

Xavier (6-2), ranked sixth by the azcentral.com media outlet in its most recent 6A Conference elite list, will play another home game in the Activity Center on Friday night (Dec. 13) when Phoenix Desert Vista pays a visit.

The string of Xavier victories coincides with the implementation of a full-court press. Coach Jennifer Gillom realizes that not all opponents will wilt under that pressure, but it still is good for the Gators to gain that experience.

Xavier also continued its long-range accuracy, connecting on nine 3-point baskets.

The Gators had four players score in double figures – freshman point guard Sienna Cherwinski (18), senior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood (14), freshman inside player Mia Davis (14) and junior guard Tori Saucedo (11).

Freshman Hannah Young appears to be improving at a rapid rate with her work underneath the basket.

Xavier Prep 74, Westview 22

Xavier scoring – Sienna Cherwinski 18, Elysia Fleetwood 14, Mia Davis 14, Tori Saucedo 11, Hannah Young 7, Tanya Barakat 6, Channing Kehoe 2, Mackenzie Coder 2.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Coach Tui brings more notoriety to Xavier

Xavier Associate Athletic Director and Co-Head Golf Coach Tui Selvaratnam displays medals and other items from her recent play in the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal (Xavier photo).
Xavier Prep golf continues to reach far and wide to many parts of the world.

The latest achievement  is from Tui Selvaratnam, the school’s Associate Athletic Director and Co-Head Golf Coach.

She represented her native Sri Lanka in the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal  from Dec. 3-6 at the Gokarma Forest Resort. Sri Lanka won the team championship goal medal and Selvaratnam was third among individuals to earn the bronze.

Sri Lanka apparently is considering approval to allow the golfers to represent the country at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Congratulations, Tui, Xavier is proud of you!!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Gator hoops runs away from Corona del Sol

Just play defense and attack the basket, and everything should fall into place.

A simple approach that proved to be quite effective for Xavier Prep’s Gators as they rolled to a second straight lopsided win on Friday night (Dec. 6). This time, it was a 75-22 road conquest of Tempe Corona del Sol, just 24 hours after a 31-point road win over Mesa Desert Ridge.

Both games were marked by the use of a running clock in the fourth quarter, signifying a 30-point lead.

Xavier (5-2) now returns home to the Activity Center for two games next week, against Avondale Westview on Tuesday night (Dec. 10) and Phoenix Desert Vista on Dec. 13.

“This was a confidence-builder, showing us that if we continue to work hard, we can get better with things like discipline and sharing the ball,’’ said Gators coach Jennifer Gillom.

Xavier got a big night from senior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood. She had 20 points and 10 rebounds. But it didn’t stop there. The Gators came up with 33 steals, 18 more than the previous night, and had 20 offensive rebounds.

Once again, Gillom had the good fortune to be able to use her entire roster, providing experience that should come in handy as the season moves along.

Xavier had two other players score in double figures – freshman forward-post Mia Davis (14) and freshman point guard Sienna Cherwinski (11), who accounted for three of the team’s five 3-point baskets.

Xavier Prep 75, Corona del Sol 22

Xavier scoring – Elysia Fleetwood 20, Mia Davis 14, Sienna Cherwinski 11, Victoria Saucedo 9, Hannah Young 5, Mackenzie Coder 3, Channing Kehoe 3, Ireland Blim 3, Tanya Barakat 2, Toni Garcia 2, Lauren Etsitty 2, Sophie Sash 1.

Close, tough soccer match goes to Desert Vista

Two of the best high school girls soccer teams that Arizona has to offer met on Friday night (Dec. 6), and host Phoenix Desert Vista slipped past Xavier Prep 2-0.

Desert Vista was fourth in azcentral.com’s Super 10 preseason rankings and third on the 6A Conference list. Xavier was the No. 6 team in 6A.

Xavier (2-1) will play its next matches out of town, on Dec. 13 at Yuma Kofa and at the annual Excalibur tournament in Norco, Calif., on Dec. 26-27.

Friday, December 6, 2019

All-Arizona volleyball lists McKnight, Knight

Xavier Prep’s volleyball team is well-represented on this year’s azcentral.com All-Arizona Team.

Two senior Gators, outside hitter Bri McKnight and middle blocker Jasmine Knight, have been named to the eight-player honor team and are nominees for Player of the Year.

Both girls played major roles in Xavier’s rise to the 6A Conference state semifinals, where the team fell to Gilbert Highland to finish 30-12.

McKnight, who has signed with the University of California-Santa Barbara, had 500 kills and was a key factor with her defense along the back line and her strong, accurate serves.

Knight’s placement on the court screams defense, and she responded with numerous key blocks during the season. The Virginia Commonwealth commit also was an integral part of the offense with 447 kills. The power of those shots was impressive, most times raining straight down against helpless defenders.

Gators don't kid around -- they are all business

Jennifer Gillom wasn’t kidding.

Displeased with some of her Xavier Prep basketball team’s play in previous games, she promised her players that they would not much like what was in store for them during practices in the early part of this week.

And so the Gators went to work, concentrating on their defense.

“In our (daily) practices, we had an hour and 45 minutes of defense and only 15 minutes of offense,’’ Gillom said.

It paid off on Thursday night (Dec. 5) with a 60-29 victory on the road against Mesa Desert Ridge. A running clock was used because Xavier had a 30-point lead entering the fourth quarter.

The Gators raised their record to 4-2 and were due to play another road game on Friday night (Dec. 6) at Tempe Corona del Sol.

Xavier wasted no time applying what it learned, suffocating the Jaguars with full-court pressure in the first quarter. Desert Ridge, playing its third game in as many nights, could do very little and trailed 26-4 at the end of the quarter.

“We came out really focused,’’ Gillom said. “We (coaches) told the girls that our defense helps our offense and it leads to us having more scoring opportunities.’’

Xavier teams in recent years proved that, using superior quickness to dismantle opponents’ game plans.

On offense, the team continued to thrive on 3-point shots. Xavier connected on eight of them in the first half but dialed it back a bit in the second and made just one. Seven different players put their names on the long-range list.

“There also is rebounding, assists, sharing the ball and steals. All of it is something we need to build on,’’ Gillom said.

Freshman point guard Sienna Cherwinski led the Gators with 15 points, including three 3’s. Freshman inside player Mia Davis also hit a trey and finished with 13, and senior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood had 11, including a 3.

Xavier Prep 60, Desert Ridge 29

Xavier scoring – Sienna Cherwinski 15, Mia Davis 13, Elysia Fleetwood 11, Victoria Saucedo 7, Kailey Appel 3, Mackenzie Coder 3, Channing Kehoe 3, Hannah Young 2, Ireland Blim 2, Lauren Etsitty 1.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Gators' Robertson earns volleyball honor

It’s another big accomplishment for an Xavier Prep athlete!

Junior defensive specialist/libero Kaori Robertson has been selected to the Navajo Times’ 2019 Fall Sports All-Star Team, the first Xavier player to be so honored.

Robertson will travel to Shiprock, N.M., on Monday (Dec. 9) to receive her award.

Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant hit just the right note when she said, “Way to go, Kaori. We are proud of you!’’

Soccer: Just push button and a copy comes out

Xavier Prep’s soccer players liked what they did so much in a season-opening win over Tolleson High on Tuesday night (Dec. 3) that they made a copy in Game 2 on Wednesday night (Dec. 4) with the identical 8-0 score against visiting Phoenix Maryvale at Petznick Field.

Seniors Kaitlyn Lauck and Brynn Lebel led the way. Lauck scored two goals and Lebel scored a goal and added an assist for the Gators, who scored four goals in each half.


The Xavier Prep soccer team kneels in prayer before Wednesday night's match against Phoenix Maryvale (photo by Sr. Lynn Winsor).
Others who found the back of the net were sophomore Ansley Burns, senior Elizabeth Warren, junior Sophie Healy, senior Clara Lynch and sophomore Olivia Castrichini. Xavier coach Barb Chura praised the efforts of junior forward Kendall Warner, who had an assist and helped the offense run smoothly with some timely passing.

Junior Jaden Campbell and sophomore Delaney DeBusk were good in goal, helping to keep Maryvale off the board.

Xavier will play its first road match of the season on Friday (Dec. 6) against Phoenix Desert Vista in Ahwatukee. Start time is 6 p.m.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Gators' soccer opener is short and sweet

Even though all victories count the same on the regular-season chart, it seems like a win in the season opener always means more.

The momentum can carry a team and give its players more confidence moving forward.

So Xavier Prep’s Gators have to be feeling good after an 8-0 victory over visiting Tolleson High at Petznick Field on Tuesday night (Dec. 3).

The contest was stopped with 14:54 left in the second half, due to a new rule being implemented by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

It is similar to the 10-run rule in softball, where the game ends after five innings when one of the teams has a 10-run lead.

In soccer, if a team has an 8-goal lead at the match’s 60th minute (covering the 40-minute first half and the first 20 of the second), the contest is over.

Junior Kendall Warner got the Gators off to a quick start with a goal in the first 26 seconds. Sophomore Hennessy Perez scored with 14:03 left in the first half and Xavier took a modest 2-0 lead into the break.

Xavier scored six times in the second half, with goals by freshmen Eva Allen and Savannah Angell, sophomore Olivia Castrichini (two), junior Emmie Paulson and senior Kaitlyn Lauck.

“It was a good first game,’’ said Xavier coach Barb Chura.

The rain showers that descended on the field with about 20 minutes left in the game did not dampen the Gators’ resolve.

“We left some goals on the table in the first half, but in the second half, we were able to capitalize. We had more of a hunger to score,’’ Chura said.

The coach also was encouraged by the fact that she was able to “play pretty much everyone’’ on the roster.

Xavier has a quick turnaround and will have another home match, this one against Phoenix Maryvale, on Wednesday night (Dec. 4) beginning at 6. The Gators will play their first road match of the season on Friday (Dec. 6) at Phoenix Desert Vista in Ahwatukee.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Tourney loss leaves XCP searching for answers

After falling to Phoenix Mountain Pointe in Tuesday’s (Nov. 26) regular-season opener, Xavier Prep’s basketball team took a few steps forward with victories in its first three games of the Scorpion Shootout at Goodyear Desert Edge.

The tournament’s championship game on Saturday night (Nov. 30) against Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor was a much different story.

Or, as Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom put it, “One step forward, two steps back.’’

The Gators had little resemblance to the team that won the earlier game. They were outplayed from the opening tip by an emotional SDO squad and dropped a 60-38 decision.

Xavier is now 3-2 and will play its next game on Thursday (Dec. 5) at Mesa Desert Ridge, followed by another road contest at Tempe Corona del Sol on Friday (Dec. 6).

Gillom was none too pleased before the Gators departed for home while O’Connor enjoyed the fruits of its victory.

“There was too much inconsistency in too many areas,’’ she said. “We have four days of practice before our next game and they (players) are not going to like it.’’

The biggest issue was on defense, according to the coach.

“We can score on offense, but the defense . . . we were not mentally tough or physically tough.’’

Gillom saw the enthusiasm from O’Connor in the pre-game warm-ups and knew her team would be in for a tough battle.

“You could see the energy they had, but ours wasn’t there,’’ she said.

Now that star guards Leilani McIntosh, Paris Moore and Addie Putnam have graduated after leading to back-to-back 6A state runner-up finishes, Gillom said opponents see that as a chance to win.

“They all want to beat us,’’ she said. “This (Xavier) team is living off its past and you can’t really do that. We have not proven anything.’’

Senior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood led the Gators in scoring against O’Connor (10 points) as well as a 63-38 win over Maricopa High (20 points) in the semifinals earlier on Saturday.

Xavier is continuing to rely on the 3-point shot, perhaps even more than last season because more players are capable of having success.

The Gators had six against O’Connor and seven against Maricopa. All 12 points in the third quarter against Maricopa were from long range
.

Sandra Day O’Connor 60, Xavier Prep 38

Xavier scoring – Elysia Fleetwood 10, Sienna Cherwinski 8, Victoria Saucedo 7, Mia Davis 5, Mackenzie Coder 4, Toni Garcia 4.

Xavier Prep 63, Maricopa 38

Xavier scoring – Elysia Fleetwood 20, Sienna Cherwinski 11, Victoria Saucedo 11, Lauren Etsitty 4, Channing Kehoe 4, Sophia Alameddin 4, Mia Davis 2, Kailey Appel 2, Ireland Blim 2, Rachel Orr 2, Hannah Young 1.